In the kitchen this morning I was trying to take the plastic off a new organic yoghurt container, it didn’t come off smoothly, and I started to curse — aloud, since Mike was out for a while, off checking a neighbor’s mailbox.  And then I changed to laughter, caught by surprise and sheepishness at how bizarre it was of me to be cursing.  I am soooo fortunate, as are soooo many of us.  I have organic yoghurt, and many other nutritious items to eat, a roof over my head, family, friend…you can create my list, and yours, and it’s looooong.  To focus my attention on what was not working exactly as I wanted it to, and miss out on the big picture of all that I have to be thankful for, leads to feeling grumpy and irritated, and shoots bad chemicals all through my body.  And I was ‘doing it to myself’!!

A couple of points:

We are happiest, by our own assessment, when we are in the moment, in the flow, and not caught up in thoughts about the past or future. Matt Killingsworth in his TED talk show the studies that prove this.  Worth a look.

Even more compelling for me is the notion that we create our own well-being, happiness, or whatever you would like to call it.  There are several ways we do this. Science is coming to think that this one of the functions of the frontal lobe (in the newest section of our brain, the neocortex).  We can actually simulate happiness and well-being by where and how we direct our attention, so happiness and well-being are within our own minds, so to speak!  There are some twists and turns on this road, and I invite you to expand your horizons and choices around this by watching Ted Gilbert’s TED talk, The Surprising Science of Happiness.  You’ll be surprised!

So where are we to direct our attention if we’d like to move away from grumpy irritation, self-pity, and all those other less than desirable possibilities?  Well, simply laughing is a good start!  Good, clean laughter (not the kind at somebody’s expense) is really good for us, emotionally, physically.  What if  we don’t feel like laughing?  The good news is that we can simulate laughter too, and our bodies don’t know the difference!  Try it out!  It might save your life 🙂  When I started laughing this morning my attitude toward the yoghurt certainly shifted, but the whole day transformed in the process.

Another suggestion, and one I offer on this day of Thanksgiving, is called Naikan, a Japanese approach to life made available to us Westerners by the ToDo Institute, Naikan suggests that when we focus on what we’ve received, rather than our usual tendency to notice what we think is wrong or missing.  When we do this, the results are compelling.  If you need a kickstart on this, have a look at The 3 A’s of Awesome, by Neil Pasricha, about noticing life’s simple pleasures, and what happens when we do.

It doesn’t mean that we ignore problems or challenges.  On the contrary, I find that when I give my attention to the present moment, am aware of what I’m grateful for, when I notice and savor the simple pleasures of life, this focus nourishes me, heals me, gives me the strength and resilience to ride the roller coaster that life is and always will be.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I wish you happiness, born of gratitude, laughter, and noticing all the simple pleasures and joys of being alive.

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity.  BECOMING is an invitation for self-reflection, and to mine our memorable moments for insights, meaning, andgrowth.  Check the website for a sample chapter, or see the reviews to get a flavor for the volume.  Follow me on Twitter, let’s be friends on Facebook :-)

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