Turn your complaint list into your gratitude list

I can’t take credit for this image, and I wish I knew where it came from, but it illustrates a great point. This is how easy it can be to do your daily gratitudes. Take the things that you take for granted and make a twist on them. 

Here is mine:

1. Busy calendar: fullfilling and fun life with lots of friends and family.

2. Grocery bill: access to lots of organic and healthy food options. 

3. Pool to maintain: DUDE I HAVE A POOL, sweet bro!

Wow! Just making this list put a smile on my face. Try it yourself. 

They say if you write about three things that you’re grateful for every day it puts you in a much happier mindset. Give it a try. I love it and this practice above has just made it easier for me.

Be a spark!

An Exercise in Happiness

Science has shown that giving thanks and reflecting on one’s blessings is an excellent way to raise your level of happiness, and since this is the week of Thanksgiving I thought I would blog about a written exercise I did years ago that has stuck with me to this day.

The exercise is really quick, write down the first 20-things that you think of when I say, “what are your favorite things to do that make you happy?”  Probably many of us will interpret “favorite” and “happy” in different ways, but I want you to consider not just the things that you think are “whee fun” like a roller-coaster, but the things in life that give you a sense of satisfaction and contentment.  Feel free to write more than 20.  Do this now.  If you haven’t written down your list of things then don’t read any farther.  Once you are down with your list you can read below.  I’m going to write down my list so you can’t read any farther without scrolling.

My top 20 things that make me happy:

1) Spend time, especially outdoors, with my family

2) Do something outdoors: Hike, bike, ski, play soccer, play tennis, dance, play handball, swim, spelunk, boulder, sail

3) Take a yoga class

4) Read a book, especially Jane Austen or Sherlock Holmes

5) Watch a favorite movie, especially a comedy

6) Do something crafty

7) Cook

8) Travel

9) Camp

10) Talk with a friend

11) Have tea with friends

12) Have a picnic

13) Go antiquing (I don’t even have to buy anything, I just like looking)

14) Finish a project around the house

15) Organize, edit, style my closet

16) Sing, especially with a group

17) Write a song

18) Take a walk through a garden or a forest

19) Host parties

20) Create a new recipe

Okay, once you’ve written down your list, go back through your list and put a “$” sign before anything that takes more than $20 to do.  For instance on my list only 4 of the 20 things cost more than $20 to do: skiing, traveling, camping and hosting parties.  The first time I did this exercise I was in my 20’s and it was a REVELATION to me that most of my favorite things could be done for little to no money.   It can be easy to associate money with happiness, but the reality is that often the deepest satisfaction in life comes from things that are simple and inexpensive to do and can often be done on a daily basis.  I find that there are often themes that can be found in common among different lists, because the reality is that most humans find deep satisfaction in: 1) spending time with loved ones, 2) being engaged in creative pursuits and 3) being engaged in physical activities.  These are activities that not only make us happy, but are also very good for our health physically, mentally and emotionally.  If you had difficulty coming up with your list of 20-things that make you happy, try it again now and see what’s different.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.  I wish you health and happiness.  Namaste.

The Grass ISN’T Greener!

Comparing yourself to someone else is one of the easiest, and most insidious, forms of self-judgement.  As the platitude goes, “The grass is always greener on the other side.”  But I once heard an addendum to that expression that I think makes it far more meaningful: “the grass is always greener because you are peeing on YOUR side.”  Meaning, your side looks brown because instead of taking care of it and tending to it, which would make it nice and green, you are taking it for granted (peeing on it!)

My husband and I have a shorthand for remembering this important idea.  Anytime we lapse into a “wouldn’t it be nice if XXX was different about our lives” the other will say “stop peeing on our side!”  It’s one of the best things about having a partner or friend who is on the same page as you.  He or she can keep you honest when you are starting to take all of your many blessings for granted.

Another tip for not taking your wonderful life for granted, because chances are if you are reading this blog you probably have access to a lot of things that most of the world doesn’t, is to say “thank-you” on a regular basis for all of your blessings.  My family does this at night before bed.  We always “say our thank-you’s” together, and it’s always a very bonding moment for us since my husband and I often thank each other for things that we might not otherwise put into words.  It’s a great way to stay connected and not take each other for granted!

Go out and be thankful!

Check out my YouTube video about this topic