I remember one evening, when my life was pretty different — I was overweight and deeply in debt and a smoker and had such a hard time changing things. I felt horrible about myself, and wondered why I was stuck. I felt hopeless and helpless, and I was generally depressed about the state of things around me.
Picture: Berkomaster (Shutterstock)
Then, I looked up at the sky and saw the stars set in a deep blue-black canvas. And I thought what a miracle life is. And I resolved to mentally list the things I had in my life that were good.
My list of good things was something like this:
- I had a wonderful wife
- I had five amazing children (now six)
- I had loving parents and siblings and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins
- I wasn’t sick
- I had a job
- I had decent shelter and food
- My family was healthy
- I could see, and appreciate the beauty of the world around me
- I could taste delicious food
- I had great books to read
The list went on, but you get the idea. Even when things seemed horrible for me, actually I was OK. And more than that, I had some amazing blessings in my life. That night I resolved to count my blessings more often. I resolved to be grateful for what I had, and for the people in my life. I started the habit of gratitude.
How My Life Changed
Now, this seems like a trivial and maybe trite and hokey thing to many people. I’m here to tell you that it’s not trivial, and as trite/hokey as it may seem, it changes lives. Here’s what happened to me, as I changed my thinking from one of negativity to one of gratitude:
- I appreciated my wife Eva more and told her so. I felt good about having her in my life, and we deepened our relationship.
- I also appreciated my kids more, and instead of getting mad at them so much, I would notice their lovingness, their curiosity, their humour and playfulness.
- I appreciated my other loved ones more, and while I don’t always tell them how grateful I am for them, I do think it a lot, and do tell them much more often now.
- I was kinder to others around me, at work and everywhere else, because instead of seeing the faults in everyone, I saw the good, and was grateful for them.
- I needed less, because instead of thinking about what I don’t have, I was grateful for what I did have.
- Little things bothered me less, because instead of complaining about every little thing, I would find things to be thankful for.
- I appreciated nature all around me, smaller things that I might have missed before, beauty in everything.
- Habit change became easier, because instead of focusing on how hard the change was, I found the joy in the changes, and joy in seeing myself overcome challenges.
- Each and every moment became cause for gratitude, and living in the present became easier.
The list goes on and on, but each of these things is incredibly powerful. Not trite. Not hokey. Pure wonder.
Start with a Small Session
So how do you pick up this habit? It’s interesting, because so much of our lives is spent in unconscious mental habits. Without knowing it, we complain, we nitpick, we stress about little faults, we see the bad in people and situations. Changing that doesn’t happen immediately. But you can change a little at a time. Start with a small gratitude session, and really be thankful. Really feel the happiness that something or someone is in your life.
Take a moment to make a list, right now, of the things in your life you’re thankful for. You just might be looking back on this moment years later, as the moment your entire life changed.
The Thinking Habit That Changed My Life [Zen Habits]