The Holiday Season is fast approaching. Already, snow flakes are starting to dance in the wind. It is simply beautiful. Have you ever really taken the time to carefully look at a snow flake? It is simply beautiful.
We live in a world of plenty, even excess. We take for granted the basics that we live with while three quarter of the world have to live without. We truly lack for nothing, really. Yet we complain for the littlelest things, losing sight of what really matters. It’s no wonder so many people are depressed and anxious. And, sadly enough, this attitude is passed onto our children, always asking for more, the newest shiny gadget or toy. When does it end, you wonder. I can’t keep up.
Study after study, looking at what distinguishes happy people from the rest of the world, come up with the same conclusions when it comes to traits or attitudes of these rare creatures! Hum… what are those traits, you want a chunk of happiness too, don’t you !
Well, one attitude common in happy people is the attitude of gratitude. Simple isn’t it? Happy people aren’t necessarily people who are free from struggles, or hardship, that is simply part of the human experience. Happy people, in times of struggle, just choose their attitude towards external events for which they have no control. They are not defined nor defeated by their circumstances, and they rise above them, because, instead of focussing on lack and loss, they chose to focus their attention on what IS there. This is not to say happy people do not experience negative emotions, they just chose not to set up camp and live there! In the end, what happens in your internal world is all you can control… so why choose suffering.
When my daughter complains that she does not have the stuffy in the store, a house as nice as her friend’s, I validate her yearning, and then I remind her how lucky she is to have what she already has, and that some have it worse. We speak of the homeless teen we last saw on the street, the child whose home is in the hospital, those in poor countries we have visited who sleep on dirt, and have rocks and sticks and dried coconuts as toys. Then she is able to see, that yes, she could have more, but she also is so lucky to have what she has that many lack for. My daughter has been exposed to gratitude from birth. She is now six, and on her own, she comments how lucky she is to walk when she notices a person in a wheelchair. Our dog is so lucky to have four paws when a nearby Boxer, just like ours, was hopping on three legs! A child, just like us, will have moments when wants are defined as needs, but then, all you need is a moment to look at this present moment and see that right now, we have a lot.
So next time you catch yourself, or your kids whining, take a moment and choose an attitude of gratitude. Instead of focussing on what you don’t have, focus on what is present, and how lucky you really are ( or your kids). While your kid throws a fit because he doesn’t have the latest iPhone 6, or your daughter throws a tantrum beecause you won’t buy her another doll (she already has 8!), validate their feeling of lack, connect with that feeling…. Then talk about what they can be grateful for instead.
Call to action: As a family, at the dinner table or at bed time, make it a ritual for all of you to genuinely identify three things you are grateful for. As a parent, lead by example. Use teachable moments as well as they randomly show up throughout your day. Notice out loud how lucky you are waiting at the red light in your warm car while that lady or man is running to the bus stop, arms full of groceries bags. How lucky are you to be all cozy and warm. Be grateful for running water, a clean toilet instead of a hole in the ground with pee running down your leg because you did not squat low enough or you can’t aim! Trust me, as you develop this practice, it will become easier and easier to develop an attitude of gratitude as a way of life, to snap you out of that funk. Be grateful your kid only has a broken arm and not spending his days at the hospital being administered chemo to save his life. All in perspective. Someone always has it worse than we do.