Recently, my eldest daughter (as part of her school’s choir) had the chance to perform with the African Children’s Choir.
It was an experience that blew me away - because when the children sang so much joy filled the room.
It’s hard to describe how I felt - but I was deeply moved by the children’s heartwarming, wholesome, beaming smiles and their passionate, enthusiastic singing.
They truly gave it everything they had.
To be honest I found it very emotional - especially when I found myself asking this question.
How are these children so deeply happy when they have so little?
As I thought about this question I realised how much I’m conditioned to link happiness to ‘things’.
I’d made a very bad assumption! I was comparing what my children have to what the African children have - and linking that to happiness.
But that’s not how it works.
You see as I thought about my question further I realised happiness is a perspective.
You see happiness is a choice.
It’s an emotion and a feeling we can control. That’s because we get to decide what makes us happy – not external circumstances or situations.
The reality is we make happiness far too complicated.
For example, we attach happiness to something that’s outside of us or make happiness a condition upon achieving certain goals or owning particular things.
But as I listened to the African Children’s Choir, I realised happiness could be a whole lot easier.
Simply change your expectations and rules and decide to make your happiness a daily priority.
And one super easy way you can do that is by practicing gratitude.
Let me explain why…
Gratitude is like water to the soul
I’m sure you’ve noticed that we live in a consumerist society that persuades us we need to keep wanting more. We want the latest phone, the newest gadget, and we throw out items long before they’re past using.
Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s good to stay hungry and have a desire to squeeze the most out of life. Ambition keeps us focused and open to make things better.
But if you’re always looking forward - telling yourself that happiness is coming - then you’re denying yourself joy AND missing out on the here and now.
If you convince yourself you’ll be happy when you get that raise, take that vacation of a lifetime, or move into our dream home, you’ll always experience lack.
But that’s not all…
Living for the future is a risky decision. After all, there’s no guarantee that future will ever arrive – and if it does, there’s always the risk you’ll be disappointed.
As Wayne Dyer said, “Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”
The truth is there is no limit on happiness.
You don’t have to wait to feel good.
And when you practice gratitude, you can get to a place where you appreciate the joy and abundance that can be found in every single moment.
Nurture an abundant mindset
Gratitude is an attitude and a practice.
It’s a conscious choice to be thankful for the things in your life – both big and small.
- It’s a spontaneous feeling that arises from within
- It involves wonder and appreciation for all things in life
- And it’s decision not to take things for granted
And the reason gratitude can make you happy is best explained in the words of Melodie Beatty…
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough.”
When you believe something is missing from your life, you can feel unhappy. When you’re not OK with where you are in any given moment, you can feel dissatisfied.
Gratitude changes your perception and helps you look at the world (and your life) through fresh eyes. For example, it inspires you to see abundance, not lack and it encourages positivity over negativity - and both of these can sow the seeds for more happiness.
Life just feels so much more beautiful when you choose to see the glass as half full (rather than half empty). You start to focus on what you do have (rather than what you don’t) - and as a result your life feels more abundant.
And that’s the key…
Gratitude is also about simplicity.
Because of course we’re grateful for the big things. That’s relatively easy :-)
It’s when you start appreciating all the small stuff too that your happiness levels really shift.
But it’s not always easy! That’s because the hard truth is we take so much for granted.
When was the last time you looked at the world through the wide-eyed-awe of a child seeing something for the first time. (I know it’s something I don’t do enough).
As a result, we don’t appreciate the amazing sunset, the sound of birdsong, or the love in a friend’s hug.
And this is why I say we make happiness too complicated.
Because if you took a moment to enjoy and appreciate these little things, the happiness would flow.
Three easy ways to practice gratitude
If you want to use gratitude to feel more happiness, then you have to get in the habit of feeling thankful for the abundance in your life.
It sounds a bit strange to practice something we should be able to do naturally, but because we’ve been programmed to chase the future and want more, it means gratitude doesn’t always come easily.
In fact, when I first started my practice I wasn’t too sure what I should be thankful for!
The good news is once you get into a regular routine, your eyes will open even wider. As a result, you’ll discover more and more things for which to be thankful - that fill you with joy.
Here are three techniques to try.
- Keep a gratitude journal
I include gratitude in my morning routine. It’s simple. I start the day by writing down three I’m grateful for.
Sometimes my journal is full of big things, but usually it’s the small stuff. In fact, I’ve found that the more you find joy in the small things, the happier you become.
For example, you can be grateful for the warm summer sun, the cool breeze on your skin, the sound of the rain pattering on the roof, your child’s smile, a warm embrace with someone you care about – you get the message!
Get in the habit of doing this on a daily basis and over time you’ll see your perspective change. That’s because as you consciously note down what you’re grateful for, you’ll notice more and more things that you used to take for granted. In turn, you’ll appreciate your life and the joy will flow as you recognise how abundant you really are.
- Notice what’s happening right NOW
When you’re always chasing the future, you don’t see what’s happening in the here and now.
Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Life is only available in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.”
In other words, the past and future exists only in our minds. ‘Real’ life can only be found in the NOW.
When you notice and appreciate things that are happening in the moment, you can connect with the truth of life. This noticing is a form of mindfulness too because as you focus on what’s happening around you, you can begin to calm the chatter in your mind and focus fully on the moment.
So for example, you may notice (and feel grateful for) the warm breeze or the scenic view.
What’s more, when you appreciate nature, you step outside yourself. And the more gratitude you feel at what you see and experience, the more the happiness will flow. What’s more, by allowing yourself to notice the natural world around you, you connect with something that’s far greater than you. And that in itself can feel beautifully uplifting.
- Make time for a proper cup of coffee
If life is about connecting more deeply with the present moment, then a fresh cup of Joe is an easy way to do that.
If you give yourself the time and space to brew coffee – just the way you like it – you can magnify an everyday moment and let the happiness flow.
Just imagine the difference.
It’s time for a break and you’re going to have a coffee. How different will that break feel if you choose a manually brewed cup over some crappy instant?
There’s a reason why my JavaPresse products have made the list of my most essential physical products I’ve ever gifted myself.
Same moment – different experience – all because you decided to use products that help you experience the best tasting product.
But more than that… when you’re focused on your coffee – brewing with precision and tasting the rich flavors, you can connect more deeply with the moment.
And that’s starts the gratitude cycle all over again.
It’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy.
Practiced daily, gratitude is an easy way to bring more joy into your life.
So if you want to make your happiness a daily priority, try practicing gratitude. Simply explore the three techniques listed above and see how they work for you.
It’s a simple daily discipline that could change everything for you. It did for me.
Now it’s your turn.
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