I am a strong believer that happiness is a choice. Sometimes it is a difficult choice, and sometimes it seems like an impossible choice. Being a person who has struggled with anxiety and depression, I understand that at times, happiness can be totally illusive. I also understand that I have the power to control my happiness.
It is not something that comes without hard work, constant practice, and occasional setbacks. But it is achievable. So here it is, the one simple secret to happiness:
Being grateful for what you already have and are is essential to understanding that no amount of gain, be it financial, in love, friendship, or status can make you inherently better or happier than you are now. As Eckhart Tolle puts it, "Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”
While it is easy to blame our external situations for our happiness, the reality is that it is our thoughts and perceptions about a situation being “bad” that makes us unhappy.
“Ego says, “Once everything falls into place, I'll feel peace.” Spirit says, “Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.” – Marianne Williamson
I have had days that were identical in routine and circumstance, but that I labeled completely differently in terms of good or bad or in feeling happy or unhappy. The only difference in these two days was the attitude that I chose to adopt.
On the days that I actively choose gratitude over self pity, jealousy, living in the past/future, or longing for more than what I have, I am happy.
Gratitude Rituals You Can Practice
In my life, the thing that has made a major impact on my ability to choose happiness is practicing gratitude rituals. Try incorporating some of the following rituals into your life and see how things shift.
1. Realize that what you have is enough, and say goodbye to the things that no longer serve you.
Our society is good at telling us that we need more—more clothes, cars, friends, and things. There’s always something shiny and new that catches our eye and tricks us into thinking that our lives would be better if we brought it home and hung it in the closet.
I’ve made it a practice to be very intentional about any purchases I make and think clearly about whether it is a need or a want. I’ve also made it a habit to regularly toss out clothes and things that no longer serve me.
We can do the same thing with all aspects of our lives. If you catch yourself wishing you had more friends, call one you already have. If there are toxic people in your life, realize that their energy is no longer for you and part ways. If we can’t appreciate the things that we already have, it is doubtful that we will appreciate the things that we want to accumulate.
2. Master your mornings.
Morning rituals are key to starting each day with an open heart and an attitude of gratitude.
Recently, I started going to the beach near my house each morning before work. The shift in my mood and outlook on the day was so powerful. The ocean continually humbles and awes me, reminding me of the beauty in every day, and the great fortune I have to call a beautiful place home. With that in mind, everything else seems manageable.
Your morning ritual can be anything that fills you with a sense of joy and wonder. Set aside a few minutes each morning to meditate, practice yoga, drink a warm cup of coffee in silence, go for a walk, cuddle your dog — anything that reminds you how lucky you are to be you.
3. Write it down.
At the end of each day, write down three specific things that you are grateful for. Try to think of different things each day. As time passes, you’ll realize that you have countless blessings in your life.
4. Actively thank yourself.
This one is hard, especially for women, as we tend to be so hard on ourselves. On mornings when I wake up feeling bloated or feel like I’ve failed to meet a goal I set for myself, it’s harder to muster up the positive vibes.
But here’s the thing we forget: these amazing bodies we live in are capable of so many amazing things. They let us run and jump, the let us paint and sculpt, your mind lets you dream up amazing ideas that make you unique, our bodies can literally grow another human being!
Women, your body is incredible, and we should be eternally grateful to have bodies that serve us so well. If this is a hard truth for you to accept, start small. Think of one thing you can thank your body or mind for; it can be your eyes for seeing the sunset, your heart for continuing to pump, or your legs for carrying you through a long run.
Know that you already have everything inside you that you need to live the fullest expression of your life. This work is so important for us all to do to start truly loving ourselves exactly as we are.
5. Express your gratitude.
Make it a habit to thank people in your life for specific things, big or small. Thank your coworker for helping you with a project, thank your spouse for emptying the dishwasher, thank the barista for making your drink.
These very small acts of gratitude will change the energy in these relationships and create more love and happiness. Not only will your thanks make others feel valued, but it will remind you to be grateful for the simple things in life.
Finding the good in your life isn’t always easy, and of course there are moments that make it nearly impossible to feel grateful. But if you can start embracing gratitude more often than not, you can make a huge impact on your happiness.
Start making small changes in your life to let gratitude in and notice the shift.