Your experience of reality is largely determined by where you place your focus. If you spend most of your time paying attention to the problems in your life, you are more likely to feel troubled and anxiious. Conversely, if you choose to focus on what works in your life, or on the positive things in your surroundings, you will feel calmer and more optimistic. You will also find that you manage stress better.
It is not that your problems are not important and I am certainly not suggesting that you ignore them. However, there are many, many other aspects of your life that you can focus on.
Paying attention to your daily blessings may not change your problems, but it can transform your attitude towards life, and this will make you better able to deal with the issues you face. You will be happier when you focus on the positive and better able to manage stress in your life.
Notice the simple pleasures
There is a saying, “The person who finds treasure in pebbles, is wealthy indeed.” There are so many simple pleasures around you at any moment – the beauty of a clear blue sky, the sound of birdsong, the crisp sweetness of a good apple. Pay attention to the satisfaction of a good chat with a friend or your child’s enthusiasm over a small accomplishment.
Advertising supports the belief that material possessions make us happy. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you need that flashy new car or the latest widescreen TV to feel good.
Research has demonstrated that you soon become accustomed to the things that you buy. Sooner or later they lose their power to provide satisfaction. Yet you are surrounded at all times by small things that can give you pleasure, things which cost little or nothing. All you need to do is take notice and allow yourself to be delighted anew with the simple pleasures you encounter.
Replace Taking Things for Granted with Gratitude
There is so much in our lives that we take for granted. Taking the time to appreciate these things will enhance your feeling of well being and increase your happiness.
The people around you perform many tasks you may barely notice. The chores your spouse or children perform may be part of what you expect of them. It may be true that your coworkers are just doing their job. However, pausing for a moment to recognize the value what they do can give you a feeling of satisfaction. Expressing your appreciation to them will support their ongoing effort and make your relationships stronger.
Notice the things you do well. Give yourself credit for your accomplishments. I am astonished at the way my clients focus on the mistakes they make, ignoring their successes. You deserve to give yourself credit for the things you do right. In addition, by focusing on what you do that works, you become an expert in the solutions, rather than the problems in your life.
If you are blessed with good health, be conscious of the gift of vigor and feeling well. Your heart beats every moment of every day and you don’t even need to think about it. Your digestive system efficiently does its job with no attention whatsoever from you. That is truly a miracle!
Try an Experiment
Research has shown that people who spend time appreciating their pleasurable experiences enjoy higher levels of happiness. You can replicate these experiments in your own life.
Put a pad beside your bed and right before you go to sleep write down five things that you appreciated during the day. These can be very simple pleasures like enjoying the successful accomplishment of a task or receiving an unexpected kindness from a co-worker or the fun of playing with a pet. They can be sensual pleasures such as seeing a beautiful sunset, or the intense chocolate flavor of the ice cream you ate at lunch. Life truly is made of little things.
Practice doing this for two weeks. On the first night, record your level of happiness on a scale from 1 to 10. Then repeat this rating fourteen days later. If you are like most people, you will notice that your overall level of happiness has improved. This may lead you to continue the practice of noting down just before bed the simple pleasures you appreciate !
Whether you make a disciplined practice of noting down the things you appreciate or just spend a moment taking notice, you will become happier when you experience appreciation and you will be better able to manage stress in your life.