Gratitude, forgiveness & compassion: a recipe for happiness
It’s easy to get into a cycle of negativity. The washing machine is broken. The trains aren’t running on time and you’re late for work. The dog started vomiting as you were leaving the house.
With the social media craze, complaining about your problems is that much easier. You get an instant sympathetic ear and a knowing laugh (emoji), but this just perpetuates the negativity, really.
That was me until recently. During a very intense personal development workshop one weekend a couple of months ago, it suddenly struck me that my husband and I were training our kids to focus on the negative, while at the same time always telling them to stop being so negative. Talk about mixed messages!
I decided right then and there to put a stop to it. I know eternally positive people can seem kinda annoying, but it’s amazing how irritating negative people become when you start changing your own attitude. Over the past couple of months, I’ve broken out of the negativity shackles and I have to say, I feel much better for it. It’s like a lightness has replaced this heavy space in my heart that I’d been carrying around without even realising it. How liberating!
I felt a sense of urgency to pass this onto my kids before they turn into old grumpy people like half the world. (Oops, that’s a bit negative. I’m still on a learning curve.)
A few simple things that we started doing straight away were:
- After dinner every night, each person says 3 things they’re grateful for
- Actively turning around shitty situations like the ones listed above – so, for example, actually saying: “We’re so lucky to have a washing machine and clean clothes.” “I’m so grateful to have a job because I can pay my bills.” Etc.
- View every situation, even the bad ones, as a learning opportunity
These take a little time to incorporate into your daily mindset, but once you get going, it becomes easier & easier. You may increasingly notice how negative everybody else seems. And you’ll be grateful that it’s not you anymore.
You’ll probably also notice the law of attraction kicking in: you’ll start attracting positive people and/or the negative people around you may suddenly become more positive, too.
I know. It sounds crazy, but take it from me. This stuff really works and it makes you feel happier!
Quitting the blame game
Another part of the equation is forgiveness. It’s hard, but it’s also important to deal with difficult people in a compassionate way, rather than being defensive and angry. See the good in people and give them the benefit of the doubt. You just never know what’s going on (or what went on) in someone’s life that’s causing them incomprehensible stress, pain or suffering.
Dr Fred Luskin, the director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects and author of the book Forgive for Good, says that forgiveness requires gratitude.
“No matter what the offence,” he says, “the process of forgiveness is the same: You let go of anger and hurt by being mindful and focusing on gratitude and kindness.”
“When you think about a wrong someone did to you, your fight-or-flight system is aroused,” explains Luskin. “Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure goes up, you feel hurt and mad. But you could be sitting here feeling how good it is to be alive on such a beautiful day. You won’t always be alive, you know. So doesn’t it make more sense to appreciate this moment, this now?”
Most people just want their kids to be happy and healthy. I believe that gratitude, forgiveness and compassion are the key components.