Once again we’ve entered into the festive season. We’ve had Diwali and Thanksgiving and the usual frenzy of Christmas shopping is currently building momentum. Christmas and New Year are just around the corner. The word “happy” has been coming into conversations and greetings more and more. Happy Diwali, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Christmas, Happy New Year.
And yet all this is happening at the moment against the background of the recent terror attacks on Paris, Mali, and the Russian passenger plane which are about everything that isn’t at all happy. Even if we don’t dwell on these terrible events, they are constantly in the background of our lives at the moment. And some of you may be wondering how you can truly be festive, merry and bright when there is so much danger, fear and distress in the world.
Personally, I find myself looking to the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi for guidance here. He said: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. And it makes so much sense. We can’t change the world but we can certainly change ourselves. So it seems to me that this is something we could all work upon particularly right now – and what better, in this season of joyful celebration and giving, than to focus on happiness and gratitude? If we can build this up in ourselves, it will emanate from us and hopefully affect others in a healing and beneficial manner.
But how do we create happiness? Many people believe happiness comes from outside of us. Often folks assume that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, which means they believe they’ll only be happy when they’ve done this, gone there, met the right man or woman, or got the job which pays x-thousands of pounds a year, etc. But the curious thing is that large numbers of truly happy people are not concerned with material riches at all. Nor do they angst over finding the perfect relationship. Somehow, even when facing challenges or ill-health, they still manage to be happy.
Happy people tend to have certain habits and attitudes which create a sense of peace in their lives and an equanimity to whatever comes their way. For they know that happiness comes from WITHIN. They’ve discovered that happiness is all down to attitude and that one’s state of mind and well-being is governed by the way they think.
It’s long been accepted that there’s a direct connection between the body and the mind and that our thoughts affect our bodies. Our bodies respond to our environment, and they react to the ways we think about ourselves. If we tend to have limiting beliefs, suffer from negativity or toxic mental patterns, our bodies are going to be pumping cortisol around our systems most of the time. And this can lead to illness, disease, and generally undermine our health.
So it makes sense to think about happy, pleasurable things as much as possible to provide the antidote to this! By doing so, we can start feeling grateful which in turn creates another shift in the body’s biochemistry. Research done in the field of Positive Psychology, shows consistently that being able to express gratitude or appreciation for what one has results in helping with stress, fostering happier moods, feeling more positive, improving health, dealing with adversity and building strong relationships. It also leads towards showing more sympathy, less judgment and a greater appreciation for life and others. And most importantly, it’s revealed that developing an attitude of gratitude is the best way of raising your happiness levels and that happy people tend to cope better when things get bad.
There is a very definite link between being happy and feeling grateful, for happiness is born from gratitude. We’re not so much grateful because we’re happy, but happy because we’re grateful for something. Think about it. A person can have everything money can buy and still not be happy. And there are people who have very little in life and may in fact have suffered a great deal, but still manage to be happy. Why? Because they’re grateful for what they’ve got!
But how, you may wonder, can you be grateful for EVERYTHING when there are so many bad things that can befall you and that happen in the world? The answer is that it’s not so much about being grateful per se, but about being grateful for the opportunities which come into our lives all the time. And in every moment, no matter whether it’s a serious challenge or a positive event, there is the chance to choose to take something positive from it, and turn it around by looking at it with a different attitude.
Accepting new circumstances in our lives is often difficult, especially if you’ve been going through a challenging time. One of the best ways of coping is to try to develop a more philosophical attitude towards adjusting to alterations in your life and remind yourself not only that all things must pass, but that you can grow from every situation – good or bad – if you choose to do so. It’s also helpful to recall that if you’re partly responsible for any undesirable situation in your life, then you’re also capable of transforming it into something more positive. Energy techniques such as EFT or EmoTrance are tremendously helpful in helping you to let go of difficult emotions and limiting beliefs.
Nurturing and maintaining a sense of gratitude enables your whole energy system to start vibrating at a higher frequency, allowing you to attract and receive more beneficial events and circumstances into your life. This is the basis of the Law of Attraction.
Try thinking of all your problems as challenges. Instead of focussing on how difficult something is, turn it around and start looking at it as an opportunity for you to change and make your life better. Every challenge is a lesson to learn and a chance to grow and become all the stronger for it. There’s usually an upside to any issue if you’re prepared to look for it – so focus on that instead and make a commitment to eliminating the word “problem” from your vocabulary!
Don’t sweat the small stuff! Remember that whatever little thing is irritating you right now will be irrelevant in a year, a month or even a day, so why wind yourself up? Try saying to yourself: “I’m just going to put this on one side for now” and then get on with other things in your life. It’s easier than you think to do this.
Resolve to let go of grudges and be KIND to yourself and others. Research has shown that this is a big factor in feeling happier. Kindness releases a powerful energy which helps to build relationships and fosters positive feelings for yourself and those around you.
When you start thinking along these lines, you’ll find it easier to develop an attitude of gratitude for all things – even the challenges of life. Remember, there are even gifts in adversity. By embracing the present with gratitude you will begin to recognize that everything that happens in your life comes at the right time, and that it can ultimately be for your benefit (if you see it as a gift) – even if it feels impossible to see why right now. Gratitude and acceptance allow you to be less filled with fear, doubt, pain and resentment and more open to believing that everything is absolutely perfect in this moment. Developing these qualities also helps you to be more present and aware and open to the guidance which is always flowing into your being.
So, as we move deeper into the coming festivities, we are being given the perfect opportunity to practice cultivating happiness and gratitude. Appreciate all your happy memories, the good things that have come to you in life and the blessings you’ve received. Give thanks for the strength you’ve found to overcome challenges; be grateful for your friends, family, and colleagues; and let’s not forget to be grateful for the extraordinary kindness of strangers.
Gratitude creates happiness. It reminds you of the positive things in your life and can turn bad things into good things. It can remind you of what’s important in your life and crucially, remind you to remember to thank others for their gifts, kindness and help. Simple acts of gratitude cost nothing and make the best Christmas present you could possibly give!.
Maya Angelou said: “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud”. So why not make the festive season an opportunity to do just that?