The holidays are upon us my friends! The weird thing is that during this time of year I really see two very different personalities expressed in most of the people I interact with. One group of people view the holidays as a great time to reflect on the things we are thankful for, the blessings life has provided us and the many things we will do to continue to improve our lives in the coming year if we just set our minds to them and take action to achieve them. And yet another group is miserable, stressed out, hurried, flustered and lacking any hope that anything about life is going to improve. The very interesting thing is that both groups are right.
You see, the great thinkers, those who we look back on as the masters of quality living, they understood that our perceptions, how we process things and our overall expectations and emotions toward life all play out in the very way we perceive them. They also understood that a higher power exists that provides this goodness to them. I personally believe in Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Holy Bible, but no matter what your belief system, throughout history those who possess the following traits as a part of everyday life, tend to live well.
- Belief in an Almighty Power
- Healthy Living Practices
Since we are discussing being grateful, happy and at peace in life, let’s define them.
Grateful – a showing of appreciation or kindness; thankful. Received or experience with gratitude; welcome.
Happiness – a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
Peace – a state of tranquility or quiet. Harmony in personal relations. A state in which there is no war or fighting.
In the end, after researching dozens of these people from Gandhi and Buddha to Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa, all of these people have certain similarities that contributed greatly to the quality of life that we now admire. Absolutely they all had significant differences as well, but shouldn’t the things that contribute to a grateful, peaceful and happy life be similar across the board? I think so. Very much the same way that doing well in school requires specific things to happen no matter who you are or where you’re from. Every process, no matter what it is, has a combination of things that leads to its outcome and happiness, gratitude and a peace-filled life are no different.
These are my 20 New Ways to be Grateful, Happy and at Peace in Life.
1. Moderation in most things
Most things can easily be overdone if you are not mindful. Make up on your face, TMI Facebook posts and drinking beer are all easy examples of cool things that could very easily go bad if overdone. But what about work, time spent with friends, belief systems and recreational commitments. As you probably already realize, your dream job, your best friends and your fun activities can very quickly become stressful if you allow yourself to focus on and partake in any of them too much. Likewise, holding so tightly to your beliefs that you grow intolerant of others is also a recipe for misery. No one said you have to accept others’ ways of thinking, but you certainly don’t have to let your life’s choices contribute to your own personal stress. Seek moderation in your life and watch things improve.
2. Getting good at saying “no”
No is one of my favorite words. If you aren’t good at saying no, life can very quickly get away from you. It’s hard to enjoy life when you’re tired, overworked, under-appreciated and over-committed. With social media, you have people asking you for things all the time. Every time you buy your pet a toy at a store, the credit card reader asks you to make a donation and every time you log into Facebook one of your friends is begging you for money for their kids school, to save an injured parrot or to send their silly kid on a mission trip that is actually more of a “my kid has such a great heart” but he’s really just getting in the way type of vacation that privileged first world suburban people take once or twice in a lifetime instead of serving people in their local community who have just as many needs and speak their language. Getting good at telling people no in a polite but firm way will rid your life of a ton of stress and allow you time to focus on the things that matter to you, which leads me to number three.
3. Discover your passions
Most of us work so much and are so plugged-in with what other people are doing that we never quite discover who we are and what we love. Taking time out for yourself to soul search and find the things that really make you excited about life is what it’s all about. Whatever it is, you owe it to yourself to discover it so you can engage in it often as a means of giving pleasure and great joy to your life. Find your passions my friends.
4. Count your blessings
Literally – count your blessings. If you took 5 minutes each morning to count the number of things that you possess or have experienced that you didn’t deserve, your whole perspective will improve. The job you got that you weren’t really qualified for, the car it allowed you to buy and the new friends you have because you got that job – these are all examples of how identifying one little blessing will allow you to keep on identifying more. You see blessings are like links on a chain, one leads to another for those who are aware enough to pay attention. Pay attention to the things in life that give you pleasure, bring you satisfaction and bless you and the people in your life and you’ll soon see more of them coming your way.
5. Cultivate gratitude
A grateful heart and mind is one that has reason for gratitude. It’s a never-ending cycle. You express gratitude to God for the sunny day and the food you have to eat and for every other good thing in life and suddenly you begin to experience more of these good things. Gratitude is the key to attaining blessings. Blessings grow from the fields of gratitude my friends. One who lacks gratitude cannot be satisfied, cannot be content and cannot be happy because their lack of gratitude perpetuates a reason to be ungrateful. Break the cycle of ungratefulness and find any way you can to be grateful each and every day and these things will multiply.
6. Live an active life
Research has shown time and again that physically active people have a more positive outlook on life than those who are inactive. Look at your body! The joints that make up your body, the muscles, the length of your limbs and the mind that you have, all of these are designed to move, to be active and to be energetic. Use this to your advantage! As you work to cultivate gratitude and discover your passions, allow your body to be well by engaging in regular vigorous physical activity. Your entire outlook will improve.
7. Stop watching television
I did this more than a decade ago and that is precisely when I noticed my life improve greatly. I watch movies rather often, at the movie theater and sometimes on Netflix or something like that, but never do I watch television. It’s all about ratings and ratings are made by viewers and viewers watch programs that make them excited and programs that make them excited are based on bad news that makes us emotional. Murders, rapes, arson, war and kidnappings excite our interests and emotions and we crave to know more. No one cares about the 45 trees planted downtown yesterday morning by local high school students. But, if one of those students was kidnapped or mugged, everyone cares and is glued to the television. The problem my friends is that it never stops. If you’re not scared and excited, you’re not watching and ratings drop. So the only business any television program is in is bad news. Bad news sells. It also depresses our mind. Bad news also reduces our senses of hopefulness and positivity. Get rid of that TV dear friends and watch your life open up so that you have time to explore your passions and receive the good news that life provides.
8. Realize every setback has a blessing
For those of us who focus on moving forward in life with love and kindness, every set back is simply hiding another blessing that improves our lives even more. I look at obstacles and challenges in life like massive ramps on the obstacle course of life. If only I can summon the strength to climb that ramp, it’ll let me jump higher and farther than I’ve ever been before. The problem is that most of us give up before we can launch from the ramp into a newly discovered blessing. We give up. Life throws us a curve ball and we don’t even take a swing, we just stand there and strike out. Try! Live life with vibrancy and energy and by all means see the setbacks that come your way as opportunities to discover the blessing that comes beyond it.
9. Sleep well
Research changes from time-to-time with regard to what sleep practices are optimal but one thing is certain and that is quality sleep is a good thing. Sleep is when your brain organizes and files all the information it has taken in and renews your strength for the coming day. Lack of quality sleep is detrimental to health. A lot of things cannot be helped, but some things can. Sitting in front of a screen will negatively affect your sleeping patterns (#7 Stop watching TV), lack of exercise can create complications with sleep (#6 is calling your name) and allowing yourself to be stressed out over things you cannot control will keep you up worrying as well. Work to take your sleep very seriously and make a daily effort to ensure your body is well rested.
10. Seek out positive people
They’re out there and their Facebook posts are normal, they offer no stress, and there is plenty of happiness. These people are not going to give you the time of day if you try to bring any of your BS drama their way. Drop your baggage at the door, tell those losers you know now “no” and go find some happy, loving, positive people to be around. I once heard a man say, “you are an average of the people you allow yourself to associate with.” This is a powerful truth! You cannot associate with someone and not have some aspect of their personality and mindset rub off on you. We are social creatures and we take on the emotional and mental attributes of those we interact with. So up your lifestyle average by hanging out with better people.
11. Be tolerant
Most things are not that big of a deal. Your neighbors dog barks too much. Tell you brat kid to go next door and ask if he can walk the dog. The dog probably just needs some exercise. But my boss is an asshole! So are a lot of people, but what does that have to do with you pursuing happiness and peace in your own life? We can go on and on about how people that aren’t exactly like us need to figure it out and get with the program but that cycle of intolerance will never end. Break the cycle and practice being tolerant. When you are tolerant to a person, they tend to be more tolerant with you. When you find common ground that brings you together instead of looking for differences that keep you apart, you’ll be surprised the amount of joy and friendship that can be attained. Be tolerant my friends, but not a door mat.
You’re a jerk and you know it! So am I. And we’re jerks to the people we love – our family and our friends. Apologize for it. Don’t give a BS apology like, “I’m really sorry but if you wouldn’t say those things, I wouldn’t act that way” type of crap. Sincerely apologize for your shortcomings and lack of empathy. Whether others repay you with kindness is another issue entirely, but apologizing to those you have harmed or offended will clear your conscious and allow you to pursue your passions while you cultivate gratitude for allowing you the strength to admit when you are wrong. There is great power in a sincere apology.
13. Read books by people you admire
There is a thought that reading stories about characters we like allows us to interact with them just as if they were really in our presence. If you look back at #10 about seeking out positive people, you can accomplish this at least partly simply by reading about the people you admire most. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dalai Lama may all be the type of people you wish you knew in person. The next best thing is to talk and interact with them by reading a good book. Remember! You are an average of the people you allow yourself to associate with. If you have to use a book to associate with quality people, get your library card and get to reading! These are my 5 favorite self-help books!
14. Take joy in daily tasks
I once read an article that vividly explained the utter joy a person took while she washed the only bowl and spoon she owned each day after eating a meal. She savored the feeling of the water and soap on her hands and thought about the many years of life she had nourished from that single bowl. She thought of the children she bore, raised and fed from that same bowl and what wonderful people they were. She recalled so many wonderful life events and tragedies that she was able to overcome by the power found in the foods that spoon placed in her mouth. I was in love with that article and I wanted to share its overall concept with you here. Take joy in washing your clothes my friends, they cover and warm your body, they protect you from the elements and they help you express your personality. Take joy in mowing your yard and raking your leaves and in your daily commute to and from work. There are countless blessings that these things have brought into your life and will continue to bring if you only take a moment to recognize them. Be joyful.
15. Explore nature
The more “civilized” we get, the more urban we become. These days people can’t tell you where their chicken dinner came from, where their water was derived or where their salad vegetables were grown. As we become more civilized, we become more detached from the source of the thing that made us, more detached from nature. Take time to seek out opportunities to walk amongst the trees, to walk in high grass, to breathe fresh air and to take in all the beauty that the natural world provides. Your body, your very being was designed to be part of nature, not an observer of it, you are an essential part of it. Engage plants, water, animals and the air by exploring nature.
16. Laugh a lot
Laughter is a great medicine. You cannot laugh and feel as bad as you did before laughing. It is, by nature, an act that brings us happiness and makes us feel better. Find people who allow you to be yourself and to express your personality. This will provide you with endless opportunities for great, genuine laughter. Human beings need laughter, it’s part of who we are, that’s why it feels so good.
17. Be forgiving
Grudges harm the holder more than those who it is held against. The bad feelings you hold for someone else are harming you. Those bad feelings are keeping you from moving on just as if they were an anchor on a ship. Let go of bad energy and bad thoughts about those who have wronged you by forgiving them. You don’t have to be their friend or ever associate with them again, but let it be known that those bad feelings no longer hold you captive. Be forgiving.
18. Do the right thing
Often in life we live in the gray areas. I encourage you to pick sides when it comes to doing right. This takes 100% of the stress or guilt associated with being dishonest with ourselves and others and tosses it out the window. You cannot feel bad about yourself and what you’ve done if you are doing the right thing. Doing the right thing allows you to identify those people who are worthy of your honesty and your truth and those who are not. Doing the right thing will also provide you with endless opportunity to be generous to those in need whether it be your time, your energy, your love or you money. Opportunities to become a better, happier, more grateful and peaceful human being present themselves to people who do the right thing.
19. Embrace culture
Who knows where you come from, what you believe or what identity you relate to, but I encourage you to embrace aspects of culture that allow you to feel proud of who you are without requiring you to consider yourself better than anyone else. I am so very proud that I was born in the United States of America. Because I am a citizen of this great nation, I am fortunate and blessed, but no better than any other person anywhere else on this planet. However, because I am from the U.S., I do have opportunities that my ancestors sacrificed to provide me that people from other countries do not have. And, because of these blessings, I love to share them. One of my favorite parts of life is meeting someone from another country and learning all about who they are and where they’re from. Keep in mind that every culture has blessings and value that our cultures may not so don’t let your embrace of culture turn into divisive pride. I can honestly say that one of the most rewarding experiences in my life is sharing the blessings I have with people of other cultures so that they can benefit from the blessings that my countrymen have so graciously given to me. And, therefore I graciously give them to others and gratefully receive the blessings they share with me. I encourage you to look at your culture, not as something that makes you different, but as something that gives you the opportunity to share with others and bless them as you have been blessed.
20. Love being loving
Love is one of those things that cannot be well explained by the English language. A number of other languages do a much better job of this. Some of them have five or six different words to express love depending on what kind it is. No matter what kind of love you hold for someone or something, it is good. Love is good and that’s all that can be said about it. Fall in love with expressing love – love is patience, love is kindness, love is generosity, love is caring and love is friendship. Be these things and more for the people in your life and see the rewards come flowing back to you. Love being loving.
There they are my friends, my 20 new ways to be grateful, happy and at peace in life! I hope you enjoyed reading this article as I sure enjoyed researching and writing it. If you take nothing else away from this article, please take this. Everything that plays into your gratitude, peace and happiness is under your control. Your perception bends to your will and how you choose to see things is how they are. In the end, your life and the way you lead it is a choice. Choose to be grateful my friends. Gratitude provides blessings and blessings bring happiness. Happiness and gratitude together give you peace and all of these are good things.
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