I’ve been learning more and more lately that our moods and our view of the world are largely derived from our thoughts. The way we think about our lives, and the people and things and events in them, strongly affect how we feel about those things. What this has shown me is that happiness is not a result to be sought. It is often a choice we make.
Today, I’m going to talk about how I’ve stumbled upon a few practices that have been working pretty well for me. They’ve boosted my moods and (I hope) made a little difference in the lives of the people around me. They’re simple things that can be implemented on a regular basis, and I’ve found they’ve made me a happier person overall.
Think about those you love
I had an experience a few days ago that really took me by surprise. I got off of work, I came home, and I decided to write some letters. A lot of the time, when I’m working on the same thing for long periods I get tired and frustrated as time goes on. But this time, it was the opposite. As I worked on these letters, I found my mood greatly improving as time passed.
A few hours later, I had four letters to four people I was grateful to. As I took the time to think about how grateful I was, it made me happier and happier. I wrote slowly, and carefully thought through everything I was writing. I was deliberate with every pencil stroke, putting all of the love and gratitude I was feeling onto the page. For the entire time I was writing, I was filled with memories of the good things these people had done for me. Being able to stay focused on positive things for an extended period made me happier than I had been all day.
I got on a roll, and worked late into the night finishing these letters. By the end of it, I was exhausted. Exhausted, but not frustrated. When I finally set down the pencil, I had a smile on my face and a profound feeling of peace had settled over me. When I finally went to bed, I fell asleep happy, with thoughts of people I loved filling my head.
This one is helpful for introverts and everyone who tends to keep to themselves. I’m the worst at this. I tend not to talk to people unless I have to. Fortunately, I work in a job that makes me talk to new people all day. It gives me a lot of opportunities to grow.
Something that I’ve found valuable at work is treating everyone like a friend. In the past, I’ve had a tendency to be more critical of strangers. And that sucks, because you never make any new friends if you’re just focused on peoples’ negative traits. So what I’ve been doing more lately is looking at every person around me as if they’re my best friend. I love this person, I haven’t seen them in a long time, and I’m excited that they’re there.
When I act this way, people pick up on it. I’m nicer to them, they’re nicer to me, and everyone comes out of the situation feeling good. It’s a win-win.
Appreciate different forms of love
Love is obviously something that makes you happy a lot of the time, and so far I’ve talked about focusing on the positive and loving everybody you meet.
But there are situations where love causes pain. I’ve experienced my fair share of these, and I’ve been unbelievably sad because of them at times. But lately I’ve found that I’m able to appreciate even the bad feelings sometimes. It’s not that I enjoy it, exactly. It’s kind of a feeling of awe. Let me give you an example. The other day, I found myself really missing somebody. It was hard not to get caught up in the sad feelings of them not being there. But I sat down and thought about it, and my perspective changed.
I stopped thinking about how much it sucked to not have them around. I thought about how beautiful it is that I could feel that strong an emotion in the first place. I care so deeply about another human being that the fact they’re not around me makes me sad. The capacity for that kind of love is something that I had been taking for granted, but not any more. In that moment, I felt so happy to just be alive. I still missed the person, but I was able to savor that feeling and let it help me instead of hurt me. This doesn’t apply to every situation, but I’ve found that when I look for reasons to be happy I’m likely to find them.
I honestly believe that love is one of the most powerful and effective mood boosters there is. I can’t help but feel happy when I take the time to focus on loving people. Whether it’s sitting down and writing a letter to someone I’m close to, or just being extra nice to a stranger because I know everyone can use a little kindness sometimes.
There will always be people that you don’t get along with, people with different upbringings and different opinions. But, as Buddha says, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” And, in the bible, Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments are loving God and loving each other. So, even when someone is rude to you or hurts you, show them love. Yes, even the person who cut you off in traffic. It may not solve the problem, but it’ll be better for you than hating them and being angry at them. Anger can ruin your day, but love can only make it better.
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