Many of the things that make us feel good come from others:
â€¢ Affection from a spouse/significant other
â€¢ Support from friends
â€¢ Praise from a boss or colleagues
â€¢ Recognition for special talents and qualities
â€¢ Compliments from those we admire
While these are wonderful things, relying on them to make ourselves feel worthwhile and happy can be a risky proposition. Relationships break up, friends move away, jobs end, special skills become obsolete. Even if we are fortunate enough to have these things remain constant in our lives, sometimes those around us canâ€™t or donâ€™t appreciate our worth, contributions, or unique beauty. If we wait for validation from others, it might not come.
But we can increase our sense of well-being by taking charge of our joy. This is one of the most empowering self-discoveries â€“ happiness can be within our grasp if we choose to reach out for it. We can be thankful and experience gratitude for what is within our control and influence. With this in mind, here are a few simple things that make the two of us smile and remind us to be grateful:
â€¢ Appreciating the beauty of a sunrise or sunset
â€¢ Choosing to wear a favorite color
â€¢ Calling an old friend and catching up
â€¢ Dining by candlelight regardless of occasion
â€¢ Dancing and singing to cherished music
â€¢ Baking cookies
â€¢ Reading aloud to a child
â€¢ Saying â€œyesâ€? to things we want and â€œnoâ€? to things we donâ€™t
We found that just constructing and reflecting on this list made us feel more refreshed, more optimistic and more thankful. And we can assure you that doing these things is even more powerful and fun than thinking about them. Imagine how making time in your life for small joys could increase your happiness. Stop and make a point to take advantage of natureâ€™s splendors â€“ revel in a crisp winter snowfall, say a word of thanks out loud for a beautiful sunset. Proudly wear your favorite color.
Plan an evening with friends, make time for those relationships that might be neglected, do something nice for those who have been a constant presence in your life such as taking your spouse out on a date. Enjoy a candlelit dinner, even if the food is humble, and you are dining solo. Play that music you love. Bake some cookies or buy some and warm them up in the microwave to get that fresh baked feel. Visit with a neighbor child, see your niece, grandchildren, etc., or consciously spend more quality time with your own children.
Do things from a foundation of enthusiasm and joy rather than obligation â€“ say â€œyesâ€? to an outing with someone who inspires you and â€œnoâ€? to a demanding relative. Immerse yourself in small pleasures that are easily within your reach and we think youâ€™ll find that lifeâ€™s frustrations fade and their power to upset you is diminished. Youâ€™ll be grateful you made the choice to nurture your own happiness and foster the Thanksgiving spirit in your everyday life â€“ why limit the appreciation celebration to just one day?!
Self-Discovery Tool Number Two
How might noticing what brings you happiness help clarify what you can do to create a more joyful life? Make a list of things that bring a grateful smile to your face and commit to doing one or two of those things in the next week. Share your list and your commitments with us, share them with others.