A guest post by Gretchen Knox
Life is made up of small pleasures.
Happiness is made up of those tiny successes.
The big ones come too infrequently.
And if you don’t collect all these tiny successes,
the big ones don’t really mean anything.
– Norman Lear
I noticed something recently. I’m happier. No, I’m not grinning from ear to ear or skipping around the neighborhood, this is much better. I feel centered and balanced. Difficult events don’t “throw me off” like they used to. Bad drivers don’t get yelled at. My son and husband don’t get the silent treatment. Unexpected delays at work don’t gnaw at me for days. And when the scale goes up, I stick to my eating plan even though I’m tempted not to.
I’m not sure exactly when this started, but I like it. There’s an evenness about my mood that tells me that something’s different. I used to think that being happy was an external thing. Something everyone could see – always joking, never getting upset with others, feeling perpetually giddy. And while I do feel these “highs” more often, I’ve developed a different kind of happiness. And it all started with a tea bag.
About a year ago I plunged a bag of green tea in my cup. This brand always includes a pithy saying on the tag. This one said, “Bliss is a constant state of mind, undisturbed by gain or loss.” I pinned that one to the board in my office and looked at it frequently.
I found myself really thinking about it. For a long time, I didn’t necessarily believe it but I found it intriguing – almost inviting. Wouldn’t it be great to feel that equilibrium despite the bumps and bruises that seem to come into my life? And wouldn’t it be equally as good to feel true, deep gratitude for the many blessing I have?
So the thought was planted in my head. That’s how things started to change. When life was challenging me, I found myself reading this tiny note on my board and deliberately try to change my thoughts by asking myself just a question or two.
- Will this situation really matter tomorrow or next week?
- What’s the positive I can get out of this?
- How can I change this situation to help others or myself?
- Is this something I should spend my precious emotional energy on?
- Who do I hurt by not minding my thoughts and emotions right now?
On the flipside when good things happen, and a lot have in the last 12 months, I make an effort to feel grateful and aware of the person who has made an impact on my life.
- Thank you to this author for sharing her experience and insights.
- Thanks to my husband for being a great role model to our son.
- Thanks to my mom and dad for teaching me the value of honesty and hard work.
- Thanks to my trainer for pushing me hard. (OK, this one is really tough sometimes.)
I must admit it took time to do this consistently. Probably close to a year. But eventually it became second nature. For me, and maybe for you, feeling gratitude and equilibrium is a learned skill. But I’m really glad I stuck with it because the changes in my life have been enormous.
- I’ve forgiven myself.
- I’ve forgiven others.
- I’ve keep doing my fiction writing even though rejection is the norm.
- I’ve gotten closer to my husband and my son.
- I’ve stuck to exercising and a good eating plan through the tough times.
- I’ve learned that my thought patterns, positive or negative, become easily ingrained, and that I have control over them.
If you want to find your own way to bliss, here are some suggestions for you.
- Notice your reactions to the events in your life. View them as if you’re an impartial observer. This can help you see the events for what they are versus the negative personal filters we often put out there.
- See happiness as an ongoing state of emotion versus an end state. By focusing on the present moment, which is still hard for me, we can really feel what’s happening to us. There is so much good if we take the time to notice. And when upsetting situations arise, stop, take a breath and slow down. The simple act of a deep breath will relax your body and mind. Allowing you to move forward with grace and calm.
- Write it down. Each night write in a notebook three events or people that you are grateful for. This simple effort will help retrain your brain to look for the good. After a few weeks of this, I could easily write three items every night and often more.
- Most important, be aware of your thoughts. Negative thoughts can create grooves in our brains making it easier and easier for us to attach to that kind of thinking. Our thoughts lead to beliefs and beliefs lead to behaviors. We can reverse this and create positive grooves in our brains. By building an optimistic starting point for our perceptions and thoughts, we are more likely to respond evenly or joyfully to most situations.
I’m not a master at this. I still struggle. Some days are more challenging than others to stay on that even keel. But the good side is winning. I’m happier, healthier and more productive than I’ve been in my life.
About the Author
Gretchen Knox is a writer and leader of global corporate communications for a Fortune 500 company. Last year she decided to follow her dream and write fiction. She wants to tell stories that compel and entertain the reader by revealing basic human truths. These days peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make her ridiculously happy. She can be found at www.gretchenknox.com.