By Suzanne E. Harrill
Joy brings more light into our lives. No matter the circumstances you have drawn into your life, pay attention when you catch yourself smiling and enjoying the small stuff. As we learn to focus on the simple pleasures already happening, the easier it is to let go of allowing the unpleasant things to spoil our day. It lightens us every time we enjoy a flower or sunset, hug a loved one, say hi to a smiling neighbor, pet our dog or cat, or make eye contact with a child at the grocery store. This joy in the moment transfers to building a positive mindset, which affects how we live our day. Let us remember that improving our attitude not only helps us enjoy our life, it also positively impacts our relationships.
We all know the only thing we have control over in life is our inner world. Our thoughts and attitudes color all that happens to us. It even influences those around us. Learning to enjoy our life more and boosting our feelings of inner worth and value are both an inside job, nobody can give this to us. The more we appreciate the small things that make us happy and nourish us, the more it helps upgrade our thoughts, self-talk, and the words moving out of our mouths spoken to others.
As we spend more time noticing the small things that make us smile, it affects our overall well-being, adding more joy, love, and peace to our lives. This in turn boosts our self-esteem and enjoyment of our day. As we remind ourselves often that we are responsible for what we experience in our own world, we pay attention to what we like, who we like to spend time with, and what activities bring us pleasure. This shift to an internal locus of control supports conscious living, which improves the quality of our own lives, even when those around us have not “gotten” it yet. The more we stay in our place of inner peace the less others affect us negatively. Focus on your joy and watch our loved ones change while around us.
Studies show that it is not the outer events that shape our stress level or enjoyment of life, it is our beliefs, opinions, perceptions, and interpretations of these events that affect us. Recently, I sat next to a young woman who was totally stressed out by her airplane travel experiences. Talking on her cell phone to her husband about her misfortunes before take-off, got her more agitated by the minute. Next, she called a friend for sympathy and explained her story all over again and in great detail. As we waited to take off and taxied down the runway, the young woman mentioned some of her woes to me.
Clearly I saw my younger self in this woman. I know I have done similar things in times past, getting caught up in the drama and not being able to let it go and be in the present moment. With my current awareness, it was easy for me to see how this woman was setting herself up for more stress later in the day because she was perpetuating her negative feelings and letting them dominate how she felt.
I decided to interject that we were really lucky not to be in Europe at the moment, as all the airports were closed because of the Iceland volcano erupting. This did make her pause for a moment as she shifted outside of her limited perspective. We imagined how tired and frustrated those people must be. What about the children traveling? We continued talking about how hard that must be on the parents. Next, we wondered if there was enough food at the airport and how lucky we were at the moment. This woman had young children who were not traveling with her. It seemed she caught the implications that her day would have been even more challenging if her children were along.
I admit, it was easier to be in an objective frame of mind observing another when an irritating day had not come my way. I did make a mental note to remember this woman, however, as an example of how not to handle stress in my future. I want to pay attention to my attitude the next time an unpleasant experience finds its way onto my path and stop my negative ruminating so I can move beyond the negative-feeling experience.
I noticed that our conversation appeared to have a positive impact on the young woman sitting next to me; she smiled as we got up and left the plane. It reminded me that others are impacted by our response to them. People see their reflection in us as if we were a mirror.
Build your reserve of happy memories when you move outside your comfort zone, whether it is traveling, going Christmas shopping at a crowed mall, spending time with teenagers, or watching your grandchildren for extended periods of time. Notice the small stuff. Look back on today and list as many things as you can that made you smile or feel happy inside. Better yet, when tomorrow gets here, visualize yourself noticing more things that give you enjoyment: the smell of your bath soap, the flavor of your coffee or tea, the colors you choose to wear, or saying hello to a friend on email.