Sunday, October 23, 2011

It's the Little Things…

We all have different ideas about what we need to make us happy. Those ideas begin to form during childhood and remain dangling before our vision like the proverbial carrot on a stick. The "happiness thoughts" keeps us thinking ahead, moving forward to attain the goal. Some people might think happiness is found in a big house, a job significant enough to impress others or a hefty bank account. Others aspire to some goal which is likely unobtainable but nevertheless provides a focus.

As we strive to reach our happiness target, we should try to focus on fully experiencing each day in order to make the most of it. After all, it is in the present that we spend our time. View each day as though it really matters -- because it does.

Explore pleasure in the little things of daily life.

This is a habit that I began to practice during an extremely difficult time in my life. When I would awaken each morning, I forced myself to immediately think of something positive to lift my spirits. On the rare occasion when I could not think of anything pleasant, I stopped in my tracks to make that happen. It became an utmost priority. Thinking a good thought first thing in the day set my mood on the right path.

Many days during that period, I might only find one positive element in the entire day; but that was enough. It might be something relatively insignificant -- like wearing a favorite item of clothing, enjoying a delicacy or exotic coffee for breakfast or knowing that a great movie was scheduled on TCM that night. It wasn't the object itself that was important but the deliberate concentration on a pleasant experience.

There are countless stories of concentration camp survivors who lost everything during World War II -- family, home and friends -- then went on to live full and seemingly happy lives. How could these people possibly endure such hardship and tragedy and then go on with their lives? This horror occurred during a period when modern mental health was in its infancy and before doctors prescribed pills to help with anxiety. How did they do it? Surely such extreme situations test an individual's strength. Their ultimate survival required incredible coping skills. They surely learned to keep focused on each day rather than wondering how many days stretched ahead before they could live freely again.

The world continues to challenge us. Even those of us who have much to be thankful for are often discontent with our lives. We need to step back and exam what is really important to us and learn to live fully each day. Take pleasure in the little things. Whether it is lingering over lunch with a friend, relaxing with your pet companion or watching a sunset, the little indulgences can add up to a stack of happy days.

It's a good path to follow.

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