Feel Happier Happiness By Mark Tong Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson It’s easy to be grateful, isn’t it? Grateful for the big things, I mean, for the obvious blessings in our lives. After all, you’ve got food in your stomach, clothes on your body and a roof over your head, right? But is it the food you really wanted? or did you want that fancy meal in the latest trendy, (read astronomically priced) restaurant your friend’s raving about? Are they the clothes you really wanted to wear? Or did you desire that designer dress, or those oh-so-so stylish, but oh-so-expensive shoes? And is the roof over your head in the neighborhood you really wanted? Or did you dream of a bigger roof, in a ‘better’ neighborhood, if only so your kids could go to a ‘better’ school? What you haven’t got can seem so much larger, so much more important than what you have. And the little things you have can so easily get swamped by the ‘bigger’ things you haven’t. And that’s a shame . Because happiness is all about the ‘little’ blessings, the everyday stuff. Why? Because life is the everyday, the ordinary, the mundane. The ‘big’ things only happen rarely, the everyday, well, they happen every day. And how happy you are in life comes down to how happy you are in daily life. In fact, how happy you are in life comes down to how happy you are today. But there is a knack, a secret, to turning everyday things into pure gold. You see gratitude is the alchemy of happiness. How the Alchemy of Happiness works. The leading character in a film, the name of which escapes me, said. “Mix it up a little.” The character had a really ham South American accent – it’s dreadful. But it’s stuck in my mind. The guy meant ‘step back, look at the situation differently. Take all your preconceptions and chuck them in a big mixing bowl. You’ll be amazed at what comes out.’ Be amazed. And comforted, at the same time. Look up for a moment. Look in the mirror. Look through different eyes. Examine the small, the mundane and the ordinary. Here are three random everyday things transformed by gratitude: The Hole in Your Head It’s a comic phrase we love “I need that like a hole in the head!”, but without cranial apertures we’d be lost. It might sound daft to be grateful for them but let’s check out how life would look otherwise… Your mouth. Without it we’d have no chance to smile or say the words of love and friendship that make life worth living. Not to mention missing out on kissing! Your nostrils. Without it we’d have no early warning signs of fire, gas or food gone bad. Or the joy of fragrant flowers. Your eye sockets. Without them our eyes would have rolled way back in your head – Uggh! Your ears. Without them life would be horribly silent, music, laughter and conversation nonexistent. Not to mention, spectacles would be tricky beasts to keep on. Your Foramen magnum Ooh, technical! The giant hole that allows your spinal cord to pass up through your brain’s protective crash helmet. Without it those vital messages that let you walk, talk, lift, bend, hug, eat, drive… – yes, everything you do relies on this.* *The last idea was Inspired by an idea here: http://precisionofdurham.com/5-things-you-never-knew-you- werethankful-for/. Bugs and Beasties There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly ~ Buckminster Fuller Bugs? Yuk!… you might think. Maybe you’ve squirmed your way through 90 minutes of ‘Arachnophobia’ or ‘The Swarm’. But there’s a surprising amount we can be grateful to creepy crawlies for. Such as: Bees Bees don’t just produce honey for your morning toast. They are responsible for pollinating much of the fruit and vegetables that keep you healthy and the field crops that livestock forage on. In the United States, four million managed beehives ensure the crops of 20-25 million hectares of farmland are pollinated each year. Wow! Ants Ants and their brethren are said to outnumber humans nigh on a million to one. Thank goodness, as the ultimate garbage men they munch up the vast majority of decomposing animal and plant matter that we would otherwise need shoulder-high gum boots to wade through – eek! Beetles Beetles have a penchant for the slugs and snails that would devour your garden in a matter of days left unchecked. Worms are master of soil turning. They generally aerate the soil far more effectively than machinery. That’s vital in keeping rainwater and goodness in the ground. Mayflies and Caddisflies Mayflies and Caddisflies are the barometers of water pollution for many environmental scientists. Their sensitive metabolisms highlight where clean up action is needed fast! Aquatic insects Aquatic insects are a swimming picnic for the freshwater game fish that delight your barbecue and dinner guests. Worms Soil turning – not just the job of tractors and worms. Insects generally aerate the soil far more effectively. That’s vital in keeping rainwater and goodness in the ground. Wax, silk, bee pollen and royal jelly, tannic acid for leather working and lac for our wonderful nail treatments – only possible because insects go about their business. And last but not least As a factsheet Bayer Crop Science shows, you could even be grateful for spiders in your home: “Spiders feed on common indoor pests, such as roaches, earwigs, mosquitoes, flies and clothes moths. If left alone, spiders will consume most of the insects in your home, providing effective home pest control. And by keeping these populations in check, spiders can even help limit the spread of disease carried by insects like fleas, mosquitoes and cockroaches.” Thank you bugs! Growing Older Growing up is a pain in the backside but growing older! What with getting stiffer and wrinklier, it can be hard to see what aging offers us to be grateful for. However, research shows that people are happier as they age. Older folk have had time to work through many of the issues that cause younger types stress and anxiety. They’ve learned how to deal with the difficult times. They’ve found who and what they love. And they’ve learned what makes them truly happy such as: Experiences Experiences, they add up to who we are. The more we have, the more we are. Memories Memories, like a bookcase overflowing with happy-days photo albums, we’ll have millions to look back through on gray days. Wisdom Wisdom, the gift we’ll be able to share with those who still think candy and teeth are a good mix. Friends Lifelong friends, those people who have shared our lives, the ups and the downs. Wrinkles Wrinkles, yes they’ll remind us how much we’ve laughed and enjoyed sunshine. Oh yes, bring on the years! Your Recipe for the Alchemy of Happiness Take a large mixing bowl. Chuck in the mundane, the ordinary, the everyday. Add an equal measure of gratitude. Mix all the ingredients together. By hand is best:) Spread it out on your counter. Step back and see that the ingredients of your daily life are actually shot through with pure gold. All you needed to add was the Alchemy of Happiness – gratitude. Laura Tong in Assistant Editor here at Goodlife ZEN. Experience the Alchemy of Happiness with her latest book, The Life-Changing Power of Gratitude – You can download it FREE here – but only for the next 48 hours. Images courtesy of Pixabay P.S. Try mixing up your own ingredients and adding gratitude. What was the result? let me know in the comments below.