Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Secret of Happiness

During a period in my life in which I felt hopelessly trapped in stasis (it was about the time I started writing The Red Coat), someone suggested I try writing a gratitude list at bedtime.  You know, recounting at the end of the day all the things in your life that you are thankful for.

Counting your blessings is supposed to help pull you out of a rut by getting you to focus on what's going right instead of all the things that are going wrong.  It's the "secret" behind that book The Secret.  Namely: whatever you focus on you get more of.  Focus on your problems and you just get more of them.  Focus on the good things and they grow. 

My problem was, I felt so awful, I could not think of one good thing to say about my life!  

Moreover, I didn't quite hold to the idea of a gratitude list.  There seemed to be fear built in.  For example, the thought, "I'm grateful for my job," had a tiny little voice attached to it that warned, "You could lose it tomorrow!"  Or the thought, "Thank heavens for my health!" brought to consciousness some little pain in the body.  It was as if courting a good thing provoked its opposite.

So late one night when I was feeling stuck and worried (and doesn't stuck and worried always visit late at night!) I wondered what I could focus on that would create movement in my life.  What would make the energy go up, instead of down?

And that's when I lit on it: I'd make a list of all the things that day that brought me joy!

At first, joy was hard to find and my list was pretty short: there was that kind word from a colleague at the office, or the smile that a stranger gave away for free.  Some days all I could come up with was how happy my bird had been to see me.  Remarkably, as I began to keep track of joy, it began to show up in spades.  Writing it down at night magically brought more of it the next day.  I found that I could even go looking for it, or create it in others.  That is when I began to look forward to my day, when I began to see that joy was everywhere and all around me, in every living thing, and all I had to do was notice it.

For my picture, I chose Scuffy who always brings me joy.


Sarah said...

"The Secret of Happiness" goes at the top of my joy list today! A lovely piece Diana.

Carol said...

Bravo- not only a well written piece - it came at a time I needed a life lesson and very much helped so you may have another calling besides writer- thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hey Diana, I needed this today. I will definitely try this....thanks so much.

Nancy Werner said...

Diana, I love this piece! You inspire me..... Thank you!