Okay, I haven’t done this list before, but it is now going to be an annual event. Gratitude, as my friend Dennis Prager espouses, is the number one ingredient to happiness. I completely concur. He wrote a whole book on happiness and dedicates one hour of his weekly show to that topic, because he believes happy people make a better world. Don’t you?
Who brings joy to your life?
You know the answer. The complainer is lower on any list of people you adore in contrast with the sunshine personality who always greets you with a hug, big smile and seems interested in what you have to say.
I made a 180-degree change in my life a few years ago after reaching a very low point. Part of the reason for that life-enhancing, maybe even life-saving improvement, included giving thanks for the many blessings in my life. This includes regular daily reflections on the simple things we often take for granted such as waking up in the morning without any pain or eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.
My Christmas column this year included my reflections on the many wonderful things that happened to me, and my family, this past year. I think the tendency for many of us–especially our children–is to bemoan what is missing versus what is present.
I continually espouse that our job as a parent is to teach our children values, right and wrong, guide and monitor their progress AND to model the behavior we wish them to display. Dad and Mom are the biggest teachers to the kids by simply acting the part, walking the walk, and any other cliché you’d care to add.
So, model gratitude. Talk about the good things going on in your life. Praise your partner and encourage the same from them and discourage too much whining or complaining from the kids. Lead the way by example.
This is another reason I so strongly believe in same-sex friends. Of course, Dad and Mom are going to have rough days, rough weeks, rough longer periods of time. And, of course, we should bring some of our issues to our partner but the key word here is “some.” Even our spouse deserves a respite from hearing about problems, complaints and whining from their partner. I don’t care how legitimate the issue may be. Bring some of that negativity to a good same-sex friend.
In other words, distribute the whining among your circle–including other close family members. As the kids get older, maybe even confide in an adult child rather than your spouse. Radical idea? Why? Maybe your child can be more objective as long as the issue isn’t a complaint about their other parent.
My wish for myself and for all of you is to be a regular purveyor of gratitude. That includes talking to yourself, expressing your joy and gratitude at the family dinner table, caring and sharing about your friends and family and otherwise seeking and finding the good in life.
This is a choice. People choose a lot in life. We control little, but our ability to be happy is somewhat inbred and somewhat a choice. I’ve chosen to stop being unhappy, as I referenced early in this column. Whenever I feel I’m sliding back into a depressive morass, I very consciously and aggressively work myself out of that place. That might include an aggressive session at the gym, a change of venue for the day or calling a good guy friend to remind me of who and what I am and how good my life is.
So, where is the list? Here’s a short list of things to think about, do, or express to bring gratitude into daily life:
- Upon waking up, do a quick body check. If all your body parts are still there and if you’re not in any significant pain get up with a song in your heart and a smile on your face.
- What kind word can you express to your family and those you encounter today?
- At least once weekly, include the gratitude ritual of sharing the good in life at your dinner table. If the kids are reluctant, do it anyway and let them pass on it. In time, they’ll participate.
- Become a Big Brother, a mentor, or a volunteer at a hospital or senior living facility. Trust me, you’ll come home grateful.
- Watch and read things with a positive message. Avoid ultra-violent movies, games and reading. Again, you will feel better taking in the positive than getting your senses dulled by the mean and ugly.
- Play beautiful music in your home. It will brighten your spirit.
- Save a dog or cat from your local animal shelter. Their gratitude will be infectious and brighten up your home, poop notwithstanding.
Make gratitude as much a part of your daily routine as you do eating, grooming, work, and other regular activities in your life. I promise you will feel better yourself and that feeling will affect, touch, and spill over to others in your life.
About this column: Bruce Sallan is an Agoura Hills stay-at-home dad who is raising two teenage boys. Bruce’s first book, A Dad’s Point-of-View: We ARE Half the Equation is available at Amazon and the store at BruceSallan.com: http://brucesallan.com/index.php/store. Bruce Sallan’s column, “A Dad’s Point-of-View,” is carried in over 100 newspapers and websites worldwide. Please listen to “The Bruce Sallan Show - A Dad’s Point-of-View,” his one-hour radio show, which is available anytime, via live stream, or to download for free on BruceSallan.com.