Seeing Life’s Blessings

Stars“Two men looked out from prison bars,

One saw the mud, the other saw stars.”   

~ Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living


So much of happiness in life depends on our perspective. Some people lead easier lives than others – there’s no doubt about that. Yet there are those who can manage to find something to be positive about, even in the worst of times.

It’s all a matter of what you choose to focus on.

For example, if you have only one true friend, you might feel like you have been short-changed because you don’t have several friends. Your one friend doesn’t seem to fill all your needs…you think everyone around you has more than you.

But to someone who has no friends at all, you would seem to be extremely blessed to have that one friend.

If it rains for seven days in a row, you might feel gloomy, wishing it would stop, wishing the sun would come out. Or you can be grateful you have a roof over your head or an umbrella. You can be grateful that you have the ability to see the rain, the freedom to run out and dance in it.

What good does it do to dwell on the things that you wish were different, especially if they’re things that can’t be changed? It’s wasted energy.

Use your energy to find something positive to focus on for this one day. Even if you can find 200 things wrong with your life or your day, I bet you can find one thing that is beautiful, one thing to be grateful for.

Don’t take the good things or the good people in your life for granted. Notice them. Savor them. They could be taken from you when you least expect it.

Look for the good in today.

Look up at the stars.


photo by: robin_24

The One Sure Path to Cheerfulness

SmiLe - Born To be HaPPy“The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.”  ~ Mark Twain


Do you ever feel like you just wish someone would cheer you up? Nothing creates such a sure path to unhappiness as looking outside yourself for someone or something to make you happy. People sometimes expect their spouses to cheer them up….single people often search tirelessly for a “significant other” to complete them…elderly people may look for their children to make them feel better….sometimes people even expect coworkers to pay attention to their moods and strive to lift them up if they’re feeling gloomy.

You might even expect strangers to bring you happiness. You want the waitress to be friendly, the cashier to smile and the doctor to have a warm bedside manner.

The simple truth is that you alone are responsible for your happiness.

No one- absolutely no one – can make you happy but you.

Looking for happiness outside yourself is setting yourself up for disappointment. Expecting other people to cheer you up may hurt both you and them.

As Mark Twain said, there is a simpler solution.

Put that energy into looking for someone to help, not for someone to help you.

The world is full of lonely and hurting people, and you have more power than you think you do to spread positive feelings.

If you set a goal each day to bring happiness to others rather than looking for cheer to come from others, you would lift your own spirits in the process.

Look for someone to smile at. Look for someone that needs a helping hand, a phone call, a bag of groceries carried, a door opened.

There is always room for improvement. Follow in the footsteps of those who have perfected the art of spreading happiness.

As Mother Teresa said, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”

And you will feel more cheerful in the process.

photo by: PHOTO ♥ BOOTH

The Power of Love and Compliments

I'll Give You All I Can...
Brandon Christopher Warren / / CC BY-NC

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”                               ~ Leo Buscaglia


I have made it a practice to live my life by my own light, to not look for anyone or anything outside myself to make it all better, because most of the time I haven’t been able to find happiness or comfort outside myself.

Sometimes, though, there is a refreshing moment of love and caring from someone else that does bring unexpected joy.

Today my teenage daughter sent me an unexpected e-card before 8 am. It said, among other things “I love you for everything you do and everything you put up with.” It also said that she thought I was the best mom in the world.


It was definitely a very special moment for me, a reminder that happiness can be found in the love we are surrounded by, the love that is sometimes clearly expressed by other people.

It’s not something we can count on or something we should look for. But it sure does feel good when it happens.

Sometimes people aren’t that good at expressing love to each other. We all tend to take our loved ones for granted and may not be very good at showing each other appreciation.

It’s amazing how much inner strength a smile, a touch or a compliment can bring.

We have the power to give strength to other people by letting them know we care. From casual acquaintances to very dear family or friends, we can express love and kindness to the people whose paths cross ours with a little gesture of appreciation.

Spread love and happiness today. It just might come back to you.

The Duty of Being Happy

Ellen DeGeneres“There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.”  

~ Robert Louis Stevenson


If you were told that it was your job to be happy today, could you do it? Is happiness something that we choose or something that happens to us?

So often people think of life events as being outside their control, and it’s true that a lot of them are.

The only things we can always control are our reactions and our attitude.

Robert Louis Stevenson refers to being happy as a duty. We owe it to ourselves and to those around us to try to find something, however small, to be happy about each day.

Moods can be contagious. If you are sitting next to someone who is perpetually yawning, before you know it, you will be yawning too. If you’re sitting in a long lecture and someone starts coughing, you may suddenly find yourself with the urge to cough.

But what about being happy or sad?

If you are around someone who is determined to be grumpy or hopeless, you probably feel your own mood start to turn to gloominess or despair.

Likewise if you’re around someone who is upbeat and cheerful, there’s a good chance your mood will improve.

I know if I turn the Ellen DeGeneres show on, I am always fascinated at the way she can almost always get people to smile and dance.

Ellen DeGeneres is a walking good mood. It’s pretty hard to be gloomy around her. She deliberately spreads happiness on a daily basis.

What kind of energy are we spreading?

We have to give some thought to the effect we are having on other people with our moods and our attitudes.

Maybe it really is our duty to try to be happy, if for no other reason than to spread joy to those around us.

Smile. It’s contagious.

On Childhood and Giggles

late 2013 052“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”             ~ Berke Breathed


Yesterday, I took the three grandchildren that live with me to the store in a downpour. I got them to hold hands in a big chain as we ran through the rain across the parking lot. All of a sudden I heard a splash and a chorus of giggles. All three had deliberately jumped in puddle just to hear it splash.

I couldn’t help but giggle with them.

At times if I dwell on the circumstances that led to the need for me to be so actively involved in raising my grandchildren, it makes me feel sad. I wish I had more control over my own life.

But that’s when I’m resisting what is.

The fact of the matter is they live with me. They need me.

And probably I need them too.

I need them to remind me to find something to be playful about every day. Whether it’s impulsively jumping in puddles or running in circles or jumping on a trampoline, the children remind me what it’s like to play and to have fun.

Because of them I can go places I probably wouldn’t go without them. I go to the pool much more often in the summer. We go to the park. Sometimes I get on a swing and for a moment can giggle like they do and abandon the stressors of my life.

We feed the geese. We watch Disney movies. We build puzzles and towers. We bake cookies.

And I realize that at times I am not teaching them about life as much as they are teaching me.

They are reminding me about the joy of each new day, where inevitably there is something new to discover and experience.

It’s kind of like experiencing childhood all over again.

It’s not too late.

Random Acts of Kindness

SONY DSC“Kindness is like snow—it beautifies everything it covers.”

                                         ~ Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers


My day started off a bit rocky. It was pouring rain and I stepped into an inch of water while I walked the dog, soaking my feet at 6:30 a.m. As I was driving to the grocery store, I almost got in a car accident because it was so misty and foggy that I couldn’t see where I was going.

I was shaken up by the near-accident and I felt like I was surrounded by cars rushing by me and trying to run me off the road, and it wasn’t even 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning. An aura of negativity was starting to surround me. I walked into the food store, and when I tried to retrieve a grocery cart, it was stuck to the next one in line. I moved to the next line of carts only to find that I couldn’t retrieve one there either. With my frustration building, I pushed and pulled the cart to no avail.

With the negative fog planted firmly around me, I might have had a meltdown then and there, when a stranger came over to me and helped me detangle the cart. And she even gave me a smile.

Simple, random acts of kindness can make a huge difference in a person’s life.

I remember when my husband was on hospice care, the final months of his life were extremely stressful. I was often up around the clock taking care of him, but still had to go to work on an hour or two of sleep.

Little things mean a lot when you are exhausted and your heart hurts. A smile from a cashier or a wave from another driver often lifted me up so I could take the next few steps.

As Blanche said in A Streetcar Named Desire, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Let’s look for reasons to be kind to strangers today.

Your small act of kindness may be just what they need to get through the day.

photo by: Matt Brittaine

Why Be Sad When It Rains?

rain on water “For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Years ago, the Carpenters sang a song called “Rainy Days and Mondays.” In this song, Karen Carpenter crooned “rainy days and Mondays always get me down.”

Does it really have to be that way? Do we have to feel down just because it’s raining?

To some, rain brings with it a sense of dreariness and sadness. Everything appears gray. People want to curl up indoors and avoid getting wet.

My dog, at six years old, still tries to avoid going out in the rain. My teenage daughter on the other hand, loves rain. Nothing makes her giggle so much as going outside, turning her face to the downpour and getting soaked.

To her, gray is beautiful.

Which brings us back to the #1 rule of learning happiness.

The old cliché states that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Likewise, joy and happiness are reactions you choose, no matter what your circumstances.

Just because it’s raining – or it’s Monday – doesn’t mean you have to have a bad day. It doesn’t mean you have to revel in sadness or grumpiness or even anger.

Without rain, the grass turns brown. The ponds dry up. The fish die.

Without rain there are no rainbows.

Some people don’t get reactive to rainy days until there are several of them in a row. Then they start to get caught up in the sense that it shouldn’t be raining anymore.

But the truth is that everything is the way it’s supposed to be.

Life is full of beauty and perfection.

Rain has its own beauty. The smell of rain is the scent of the earth and air being cleansed. If you close your eyes and listen to the drumlike patter of the rain on the roof, the sound is very soothing.

Everything is as it should be.

The rain will pass.

Let it rain.

Chasing Butterflies and Happiness


The Flying Jezebel
Ajith (അജിത്ത്) / / CC BY-SA

“Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

~Nathaniel Hawthorne


I love this quote from Hawthorne. It makes me think of carefree days of childhood spent running through grassy fields chasing butterflies. They were almost always somehow out of reach, but that didn’t make the chase any less thrilling.

I remember chasing many different sizes and colors of butterflies, and the more colorful they were, the more fun it was to chase them. Orange…black….gold…blue….the bigger ones and the brighter ones were the most captivating.

It was a happy, carefree time, feeling the loving warmth of the sun, often running through the yard in bare feet, inhaling deeply of the fragrance of lilacs or fresh cut grass. The butterflies flew with effortless grace, carried by the powerful wind under their wings.

What a thrill to run and jump after them, reaching for them and almost always missing.

We didn’t mind missing them.

When I remember the joy of chasing butterflies, I also remember that it never was about actually catching them. It was about running as fast as we could and imagining that we too had wings and freedom.

In each moment of being totally focused on the effortless rising of the butterfly’s wings, everything else faded away. We were caught up in their beauty and gracefulness, we were filled with joy at sharing a moment of our lives with another living creature, a creature that spun and dipped, and teased us, knowing it would fly safely away.

As Hawthorne said though, the times we actually held a butterfly in our hands wasn’t usually the result of chasing them. Sometimes a butterfly would pause for a moment, landing on a nearby leaf or even on one of our hands or arms.

The thing is, catching a butterfly doesn’t come from chasing them.

And neither does happiness.





The Two Deadly Words That Take Away Happiness


Wishing Well“He who is not contented with what he has would not be contented with what he would like to have.”                                                                                                                                                ~ Socrates

Happiness and contentment are often attached to thoughts that start with two deadly words:

If only…

You might be preoccupied with thoughts like “If only I were married, I’d be happy.” Or if you’re married, you might think “if only I had stayed single”, or “if only I had married (someone else)”. Then there are thoughts about career or money. You might think that if only you could quit your job, everything would be wonderful, or if only you were a millionaire, you wouldn’t have a care in the world.

So often people attach happiness to some future event that may or may not ever happen.  You may hear yourself saying things like this:

I’ll be happy when I double my salary.

I’ll be happy when I finish college….or when I have kids….or when the kids are grown.

I’ll be happy when I find a home for this dog….or when I lose 20 pounds… or when I can afford to travel.

Ask yourself one question:

What if this is as good as it gets?

Chances are your life is full of things and people that you take for granted on a daily basis.

And the thing you’re waiting for is probably not the key to happiness.

A lot of people learn this the hard way. They get what they thought they wanted– but they are still unhappy. Those that were waiting to get married decide they have to wait till they have kids, and then they’ll be happy. They have to wait till their mother-in-law moves away. They have to wait till the weather breaks.

And as each of these things happens, all they can see is the next thing that would probably make them happy, if only it would happen.

Life is awfully short. Be content with what you have. That’s the only true path to happiness.

photo by: B4bees

Enjoy the Moments That Make Up Today

Winnie the Pooh and his minions“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.

~ A.A. Milne
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to start every day with the thought that it’s today – and that means it’s your favorite day?

No groaning when you get out of bed, dreading work or school. No sense of gloom and doom as you battle to get the kids off to school, or complain about the weather or deal with other life challenges.

Instead, a cheerful sense that it’s today, and today is wonderful…awesome…perfect.

Have you ever met a person who is always upbeat and optimistic? For this type of person, an appropriate response to the question “How are you?” is inevitably, “Couldn’t be better” or “fantastic” or “excellent.” Not a whiny answer like “I guess I’m ok” or “I’m so tired.”

What good does the whining do anyway?

It does nothing except use up your present moments, moments that you won’t ever get back.

It dampens your mood and the spirits of everyone around you.

Instead, look for reasons to appreciate today.

This day is completely unique, an individual gift. There will never be a day quite like today. You will never be the age you are again. You will never experience this particular set of circumstances again.

If you’re in the middle of difficult challenges, you may be thinking that you are very glad you will never experience these circumstances again – but wait…aren’t there things and people that bring goodness to your life?

Appreciate them.

Appreciate today.

Each day brings with it fresh challenges, as well as fresh reasons to be joyful.

Look around you at everything that is beautiful, everything that you have to be happy about, everything that you don’t want to lose.

And be glad that it’s today – the best day ever.