"My boy, a frog's happiness does not depend on outward things, but in the way he chooses to see them. Take this morning, for example. I could choose to see it as a cold wet, nasty winter's day. Or I could choose to see it as one step closer to spring; a day to appreciate the warmth of the fire, a conversation with a good friend, and a delicious cup of tea. You see, Irwin, whether or not I choose to find this weather positive or negative is entirely up to me. And my choice will determine my level of happiness." I fully understand what he means but I must admit that I struggle with this a great deal. It's always easier to see the negative in any situation than it is to root around in the mud looking for the positives. So I asked him how I might become better at this, how I might learn to retrain my brain so that it doesn't necessarily revert to my old negative way of viewing things. Here are the steps my wise mentor gave me to begin changing my outlook.
1. Remember that happiness is a choice. it is MY choice. No one else's. It doesn't matter the circumstances, we still have the choice to live an unhappy life...living at the mercy of our emotions, events, and other frogs (or people, which can sometimes be miserable. Or we can choose to live a happy life as a happy person whatever circumstances present themselves. It is a conscious choice we can make.
2. We can begin to feel happier when we start changing our attitudes through life. This begins with looking at your problems with a new perspective; seeing them with fresh eyes. Just because we have decided to live a happier life doesn't mean that we won't still have problems and sadness. The answer lies in how we react to these problems. We can look at problems as a learning experience; a chance to grow and evolve. Instead of looking at the sad events in our lives (the loss of a friend or the death of a loved one) as negative, we can actively choose to see the positive. We had these individuals in our lives for a time and we can remember the joy they brought us. The gifts they taught us. And while grief is necessary, we don't have to dwell on the loss. Worrying or dwelling on sadness won't stop the bad things from happening. But what it will do is stop you from enjoying the good things.
3. Begin to be grateful for the things you have. Gratitude can unlock your happiness. By now, most of us know that gratitude makes us happier. But we often forget to be grateful for little things. Dharma reminded me this morning that gratitude for warm socks, a comfy bed, or a tasty and lovingly-prepared meal are things that we can...and should...be grateful for every day. Gratitude isn't reserved just for the big stuff. The more we are grateful, the more happiness we feel. Gratitude shows us that while we may still have problems in our lives, we have much to be thankful for. Happiness doesn't bring us gratitude. Rather, gratitude brings us happiness. And finally,
4. Living in the present. Lao Tzu once said, "If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. if you are at peace then you are living in the present." Dharma reminded me that life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. When we become wrapped up feeling awful about things that happened in the past or worrying about what the future holds, we completely miss out on what going on in the here and now. Living in the present is another conscious choice that we can all make. By choosing to live in the here and now, we are accepting our lives as they are. We can be grateful for what we have been given, and find joy even in tragedy. The present moment is truly a gift; one that is often left unopened.
As Dharma and I finished off our pot of tea, he gave me one final nugget of wisdom. "Tadpole, be happy for this moment...for this moment is your life. We are not guaranteed any more than this one. It would be a shame to no love it and be grateful that we have it."
Wise words from my wise teacher.