How would your happiness improve if you won the lottery? But why do we focus on what we haven’t got rather than on things we could feel happy about now? Why waste our liives dreaming about winning a pile of money when we have already won an infinitely more valuable lottery prize: We were born!
Can you imagine what you would have missed if you had never been born? No doubt some people say they would prefer not to have been born. But life can be viewed as a great opportunity to make whatever we can out of it, to find happiness in the here and now. No matter what the present is like, we can choose to dwell on how horrible it all is or we can choose to think about all the small things that have made us happy throughout our lives.
Try thinking of your life as a dream holiday. Suppose you won the most fantastic, luxurious 2 week holiday you can imagine. Would you let yourself enjoy only the first week of your holiday and then spend the second week feeling sorry for yourself because your holiday had to come to an end soon? This is what people in the second half of life do. They get increasingly grumpy because their time is running short but they spoil half their lives by letting themselves feel this way.
Every morning when you wake up, try telling yourself that your dream holiday has just been extended by another day. You have won the lottery all over again. Tell yourself how lucky you are to have whatever you have and make up your mind to enjoy your day. Try to make it a special day, have some fun and make someone close to you feel good.
You might object: ‘’My life is no dream. In fact, it’s crap!’’ Someone who feels this way is likely to add: ‘’If you look at life objectively, it’s no picnic. We struggle along for a few miserable years only to get sick, old and die. Where is the fun in that!’’ The truth is that it is not possible to look at life ‘’objectively.’’ How we view life is totally and utterly a matter of attitude. We can all think of people who are worse off than we are who are happy in spite of their limitations or setbacks.
The fascinating question here, therefore, is why do so many people choose to maintain such a negative attitude toward their lives? A tendency to be dissatisfied with the present and to take for granted the good progress we have made has evolutionary value. We wouldn’t keep striving to improve our lot otherwise.
But excessive dissatisfaction is self-defeating and a recipe for unhappiness. Here are a few reasons why this happens:
• Things we have gained or done well are easily taken for granted.
• We can readily see lots of ways that things could be better, how we could be happier.
• Seeing what we don’t have is painful and hence more visible.
• We are bombarded with role models on TV who look better off than we are.
• Feeling that others are better off than us induces envy, anger and resentment.
• To protect our self esteem, we blame others or circumstances for our fate.
• We tend to globalize – some things in life are crap, therefore life is crap.
• We get more negative than positive feedback because people react more strongly to things that annoy them.
So, what can you do to change your attitude toward your life, to find more happiness? Here are a few suggestions:
• Tell yourself every morning that you have won the lottery all over again because you have won another day to live and enjoy.
• Make up your mind to make every day special.
• At the end of every week, make a list of all the good things you did, the things you enjoyed and what made you happy that week. Like managing your weight or changing any bad habit, regular, consistent discipline is absolutely vital.
• Continuously monitor and catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, then force yourself to stand back and focus on something positive if only to tell yourself that you are so lucky to be alive that none of this annoying stuff really matters by comparison.