Your alarm goes off. It's six o'clock in the morning. You sigh. You want to hit the snooze button and get another nine minutes of sleep, but alas, that is not to be. You jump out of bed, pour yourself some coffee, hit the shower, and rush to get dressed. If you're lucky, you get to exchange a few kind words with your partner. The tension mounts. You feel disconnected from spouse and family. Again, if you are lucky, you grab a quick bite to eat before hitting the road. You are rushing through life, trying not to notice that it is rushing by you.
Now imagine that you have set the alarm for 10 minutes earlier than you actually need to. You are getting out of bed for you, not for work. You stretch, take a deep breath, and relax. You go to your favorite quiet spot in or out of the house and get into a peaceful, heartfelt, mindful space. First, you thank yourself for being alive, for breathing. You thank your world for supporting you. You thank the lights for coming on, the birds for singing, the sun for shining, the home you live in, your partner for being present. You even have time for a short but heart-centered connection within your relationship. You thank yourself for being thankful. You thank yourself for the few minutes that it has taken to claim your world, instead of your world claiming you. You let your Spirit soar!
The difference between the two scenarios is obvious. You really did not need that extra ten minutes of sleep. And you have now set the stage for a happier day or at least a happier beginning of the day.
Through work with thousands of clients, we have discovered that thankfulness—gratitude—is a catalyst for happiness. It affirms choices that we have in our lives, and through appreciation of what we have, we set the stage for attracting more to be grateful for. This isn't some magical formula that will change one's life completely; it is a normal, rational result of thought. Whatever we focus our attention on will increase in energy and strength. We can literally empower the good in our lives, making it more tangible, creating health and harmony.
This habit can be replicated at the end of the day as well. One scenario is that you come home after a busy day and, out of habit, you gripe and complain. You whine about what was or wasn't done at work or at home: this wasn't done properly, someone did this a certain way but not my way, the right way. When approaching our home life and relationships this way, we are actually conditioning ourselves and others to have a bad time coming home. An experiment comes to mind, one which my wife and I were honored to be a part of. At the time I was part-time employed and a part-time house husband and father. When my wife got home from work, she would complain about her day and co-workers, and I would complain about my day, the kids, the dog, and the telephone solicitors.
We had to make a solemn agreement that the first fifteen or so minutes of seeing each other held only positive interactions. No complaints, no whining, no criticism. I was dying to look at the clock. When will this fifteen minutes be up already? I can't wait to tell her about all the crap that I went through. And yet, surprisingly, over time I found that after the positive break, the bad stuff didn't seem so bad after-all. We both looked forward to the others' presence, and we got to enjoy each other more...as well as the jobs, the children, the dog, and our lives.
At this point we have covered the beginning of the day, and the end of the work day. But what about other times? I have the inalienable right to complain, to be dissatisfied about something or someone. You betcha I do. It is my God-given right to be unhappy!
This calls for another experiment. When you are finished with the complaint department, go to a happy place. After being angry or sad about a situation, out of memory or imagination find at least one thing that was positive about that situation. "I got to feel righteous, I am more committed to taking care of myself, I am rising to the challenge to be better, I am more aware of details..." are but a few of the possibilities. If we are angry or sad about a person, again, one thing, just one thing to end the gripe session with, would be healthy; "I like their shoes. She has nice hair color. My, he stands straight. I am amazed at how many plants he nourishes when he exhales." These are all examples. Be creative, but end each complaint session with something, anything, positive. It is empowering, and lends itself to more awareness and more happiness. This may be hard at first, but happiness may be just like a muscle in the body. We might need to exercise it in order to make it stronger.
Now to the end of the day. We can approach that in the same way. Writing it down would make it even more tangible. I recommend listing three things that you are grateful for, or three things that you succeeded at today. It doesn't matter how big or how small, as long as they are positive events. "I said 'I love you' to at least one person today. I admitted to making a mistake, and got to help someone else feel good about themselves and about me. I successfully procrastinated. I crossed two things off my to-do list." Most importantly we can thank ourselves for being thankful. Keep reading...
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