THE 1 SIDE EFFECT THAT I OVERLOOKED

Last post we discussed lists and how valuable they can be. Today we are going to focus on one of those lists and how a strange side effect of keeping that list can add an unexpected positive element to your life. This list will change your life for the better quicker than almost anything else I know. It is a list that I recommend to everyone. It is also one of the first steps that I advise making to your life to increase your happiness and improve your outlook on your life. It also has what seems to be a magical effect on the lives of all who try it. In my own life, it completely changed the person I was for the better! All of this may sound like hyperbole, but it is 100% true. This list? A list of things you are grateful for every day and why.

I recommend everyone try making a list of 3 things they are grateful for and why each night and then read that list the following day 3 times a day – morning, noon and night. Do this for 30 days and I promise you life will never have felt more amazing. You add the why to make it more compelling. You are grateful for the sunshine, that is fine, but why? Maybe the sunshine gives you feelings of hope? Perhaps it reminds you of pleasant vacations taken with family and friends? You were grateful for the good service you received. Wonderful! Why was that so important to you? Did the kindness and courtesy of a stranger lighten the load of a stressful day? Did it reaffirm for you that there are good people in the world? I promise you reading and remembering these moments will change the way you experience life.

Here is something fun and interesting that I did not notice before. Not only will utilizing this secret to an amazing life change your mindset to one of living life in a state of gratitude, but it will also give you a great look at what you tend to focus on. This side effect can be very enlightening. If I review my entries in my gratitude journal, I see that there are several references to things in nature. The afore mentioned sunshine. Going for a walk in a new and exciting natural area, the smell of spring in the air, passing a herd of deer on the way home and several others. I discovered that nature and natural things not only instill a feeling of gratitude in my heart, but bring me a great deal of joy.

The same can be said for thoughtful actions of others. When Margie knew I was going to write at home today as all of the coffee shops are closed, she prepared a little area for me including plugging in my ‘happy lamp’ because it was a very gloomy day. I was very grateful for this. If she had bought me a pizza or a bottle of rum I would have been grateful for that. Not because of the material aspect, but because of the thought behind it. When strangers hold doors for me or smile and share a kind word, these things mean a great deal to me.

Learning these facts were useful because I could now make it a plan to spend more time in nature and with thoughtful people. It is ironic because I learned this by keeping track of what I was grateful for, but by putting these two items into action it will make it easier for me to achieve and maintain my grateful mindset. An interesting, but very helpful side effect I never noticed!

Begin keeping a gratitude journal today! Write 3 things you are grateful for every day and why. Then review those things at least 3 times the following day, morning, noon and night. Do this for 30 days. At the end of those 30 days, go back and see if you can see any patterns of things, people or situations that have you feeling grateful. Do your best to put more of those into your life and before long you will be walking around with a grateful heart!

MY FAVORITE ANTIDOTE TO FEAR AND DESPAIR

We have spoke at length about how to deal with feelings of fear and negativity. What happens on those days that you just can’t find any positive thoughts no matter how hard you look? Is your place of work where happy feelings go to die? Does even driving up to the building fill you with dread? Maybe every word that comes out of your mouth seems to cause disagreements with those around you. Trust me, we all go through periods of times like that. When we live in a world filled with darkness. It is then that you must switch from looking for the sunshine to being the sunshine. The million dollar question then becomes, “How on earth can I find sunshine to spread, when I can’t even find any sunshine in my own head?

This goes back to a lot of the tools we discuss in this blog and that are mentioned in my book A Happy Life for Busy People. You will find a link to purchase that book at the end of this blog. There are a few things we can do that only take minutes a day that can add sunshine into our life. It is for this reason I recommend doing these before the negativity starts to affect you. Meditation, vision boards and happy playlists. For more details on these and many other activites feel free to search this blog and the pages of the afore mentioned book.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, you can increase your happiness by giving it away. By shifting your focus from all of the negativity in your own life, to bringing light to someone else’s you will increase your own. In addition to the feeling you will get from seeing the smile light up their face, you will walk away with a feeling of accomplishment. Why a feeling of accomplishment? You have brought a great deal of positivity to a world that sorely needs it. That is a feeling that will stay with you long after you have left the smile you created.

How important is one small act of kindness? Let us do the math quickly. There are 7 billion people on earth. Even if we could achieve a 50% rate of people doing random acts of kindness that would be 3.5 billion smiles created. 3.5 billion positive moments brought to light. Imagine living in a world where that happens. It may sound like a crazy dream, but that is only half of the people. Can you imagine if we could get close to 75%? It is not out of the realm of possibility. How can we achieve this? Start with ourselves. As many days in a row as you can do at least one act of kindness. Even if you only did this on the weekends that would be 104 smiles you created a year. Do you think this would affect the state of the world? Feel free to leave any suggestions for kind acts in the comments below.

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING!!

WHY BOTHER?

Last post we investigated why it is important to give all of yourself when it comes to your relationship with the one you love. We learned that it allows them to give all of themselves to us, we learned that by not doing so we end up drawing into our lives the very circumstances that we are trying to prevent. That is certainly important when it comes to our romantic partners. Most of the time we are not only sharing our hearts and souls with each other, but also our homes. Not only is it very important to keep someone who lives in the same house with you happy, but they are probably thinking something very similar.

What about the other people in our lives? What about our friends? Why is important to put so much effort into our friendships? In case you didn’t read the last post let me refresh some of the points that apply equally to friendships as they do to romantic relationships. There are friends we might be afraid to trust completely because they might take advantage of our trust and hurt us. Unlike the romantic partner, there are less repercussions if they do. We do not have to go home to our friends. The connection is generally not as deep as our romantic relationships and therefore the ending of a friendship is usually less painful than a romantic relationship. Same with sharing ourselves with friends. The less we tell them, the less information they would have to use against us should they decide to do so.

To a lot of us this may seem very safe and logical. The less we give people the chance to hurt us, the less we will be hurt. Seems to make sense, right? Wrong. By doing this we are not only short-changing ourselves out of the deep, meaningful relationships we could be enjoying, but we are also hurting others and increasing the chances that we will be hurt in the future. Wait, what?

That’s right. So far we have been looking at this from only one side of the equation. Let us look at the other side for a second. If you feel that your friend views you as untrustworthy or at best does not trust you completely, how would that make you feel? Do you think you would feel like extending your trust to that person? You would probably end up feeling like they do not hold you in that high of regard. Now follow that up with them not completely sharing themselves with you. That could leave you feeling that they think you are either not worth knowing that information, or again cannot be trusted with it. Do you think you would share things about yourself with them? Probably not. This would leave us with very shallow and incomplete relationships at best. It also leaves the door open to upset or anger people even by accident. If you do not know what a person likes or dislikes, their opinions on certain matters or even their fears and joys you could say something you truly regret even not trying to do so.

We have exhausted why it is important not to not give ourselves to friendships. How it can end up increasing the chances we will get hurt instead of keeping us safe as we may think. What advantages, if any, can we gain by trusting and giving ourselves completely to our friendships? I give you exhibit A in the picture above. This is a story that is so exciting I can hardly wait to share it with you. While Margie and I were DJing at a local establishment on Sunday night, my good friend Cari messaged Margie and asked her what door we use when we come home as she had a surprise for me.

When we arrived home around 2 a.m., after what was a very busy evening I was exhausted. Currently, the date here is January 95th, or so it feels. We should be having highs in the mid 50’s but they had been barely above freezing with the sun so fed up with the long winter it decided to take a vacation. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so prolonged cold weather minus the sunshine can be quite trying for me and those around me. At this point if you would like to light a candle for Margie it would not be a bad idea. Because I do indeed trust my friends with this information and share it with them as well, Cari was able to do something so thoughtful and amazing. I arrived home to see the above signs taped to my front door! They ranged from reminding me warm weather was coming, to the fact that the cold weather is what makes the tropics so special to me. She added the Wisconsin State Fair, which I love as well. She even encouraged me by reminding me how much my writing touches her and others.

That night I fell asleep with a heart filled with gratitude for the caring and loving friends I have. The reminders and motivation served their purpose, but so did the fact that I have such a great friend. Her efforts did more than she could possibly imagine and her timing could not have been more perfect!

My point is that this all would not have been possible if I did not open my heart to my good friend. It would not have happened if I did not trust her enough to share not only my joys, but also my struggles and fears. It is true that not many friends can be as awesome as Cari, but by trusting and sharing with your friends you give them the opportunity to be so.

WHY NOT?

This picture really says it all. If you are alive right now, you should be enjoying your life to the fullest. Sure, you might not have the perfect body, you might not have the perfect job and unless you are as lucky and blessed as I am you might not have the perfect mate. So what!

You are alive and the possibility to improve exists. You can become healthier, wealthier and whatever else you are chasing. While working towards whatever goal you have there is one thing you should had to the top of any goal, no matter what that goal is. What should be included in any list you have whether it is goals, to do, or even shopping lists, somewhere on that list you should have some version of these words – enjoy and have fun during the process.

Why? A better question is, “Why Not?” We only go once around the ride and if you are not finding ways to enjoy your life, you are wasting it. Want to get in shape? Maybe start walking with a friend? Sharing your progress online with a supportive group of people. Looking for that perfect person to share your life with? Maybe find entertainment in the ‘unique’ people you will no doubt have to go through. Stuck in a job you dislike? Be grateful for as many things as you can in that job even if it is just the motivation to look for something better for yourself.

I know people who actually do the very opposite of this. See if this sounds familiar. You are at a fabulous all-inclusive resort in the tropics. The sun is shining, the love of your life is across from you with a big smile on their face. Suddenly, from the table next to you a voice can be heard. It is a man complaining his burger is too well done. Not only is he complaining about it, but he seems to be almost obsessing about it. Then he adds how dry the bun is. Forget that the weather is perfect, you can smell the ocean and flowers and birds are everywhere, his hamburger is dry. Sound ridiculous? Some people really live this way. Don’t be one of them. If your burger is dry, take a nice slow slip of rum and say to yourself with a chuckle, “Next time I will get the jerk chicken.”

How can we enjoy the process? There are several ways. Ask yourself questions like these, “What can I be grateful for in this situation?” “What can I find that I love?” Also look for the humor is challenging situations. If all else fails, shake your head and say, “At least I am going to have a good story.” Remember every bad day only serves to make us more grateful for the good ones. Let us all remember to enjoy our life to the fullest.

SUNSHINE WARRIOR 


After learning and teaching ways to be more positive in life I have come to a important conclusion – it is a constant struggle – for anyone who has embarked on this journey this is not too shocking. When you make the decision to live a more positive, loving and passionate life something strange happens. At first people pat you on the back and say things like “good luck” and “that’s great”. It all starts off well and good. Fast forward at most a week or so and things change. People begin to get less comfortable with your decision. I’m not sure why this is.  I have a theory or two. Perhaps they realize how much their own lives are not full of joy and fulfillment. Perhaps in some strange way they feel if you succeed it somehow means they fail.  Another interesting thing people tend to do, even well-meaning people, is they begin to show you examples of how dark the world can be. You begin to hear things like “How can you be positive when ___ happens?” or look how bad the world is getting and they sight some recent negative event the media is feeding off of. The truth is there is good and bad in the world. Light and dark. Positive and negative. Whether you are spiritual, or not that is easy to see. You meet nice people and experience nice things and you also face challenges and meet people so unpleasant conversations with them leave you wanting a shower.

So what side are you going to be on? Make no mistake, what you choose to focus on decides a great deal of your life. What meaning you assign to things decides how they make you feel. This is the most important decision you can make in your life. Why? It determines how you feel. There will always be wins and loses what they mean to you will determine how they affect you. If you believe the world is out to get you and always to expect the worst you will feel one way. We all know some people who actually do not allow themselves to be happy even when something good happens. They always look for what could go wrong. I knew a man who won an all-inclusive vacation. I was happy for him, but he did not seem so happy. “Yeah, but I have to pay the taxes” he informed me. The taxes amounted to $100. He, and his wife, were going to Jamaica airfare, hotel, meals and cocktails for a week for $100 and he was sad. These are the people who fall victim to the world around us. The negative mind programing we see on TV, online and in the papers everyday. Still, we all know people who remain happy no matter what. If they get a flat tire they muse that it may have prevented them from being in an accident further down the road. Some people call this naïve, but it is no more fanciful than focusing on the negative.

So what side do you find yourself on? Daily in the news we hear of tragedy, hateful speech, how the environment is falling apart, how morals are decaying and a host of other dark and negative events. Seldom to we hear about the people that come together to help the victims of violence, a new inspiring speech that was given, or how some high school students are coming together to clean up a river. These things are not ‘good news material’ they do not sell.

So what do I believe? What does the man who brings these words to you think? Here is what I believe. Make no mistake, your joy, your well-being, your very spirit is under attack. We are in the eye of a hurricane of hate and negativity. The world has become darker in many ways. I think a lot of that is owed to the focus on what is wrong in the world. It has dimmed the light of hope in the hearts of many. Which is why my motivation for writing only grows stronger. We need more people to spread joy, to focus on what is just, good and right. We need more healers of all kind. We need people to bring us together to stand against those trying to tear us apart. Before you jump to sign up let me assure you of one thing, this is not for the faint of heart. In order to be a source of light in a dark world you must be brave. You will find yourself ridiculed. You may often find yourself being attacked by those closest to you and on occasion even standing alone. Many souls find themselves negative and uninspired because today that is the easy way. To be an inspired soul and even greater to inspire others takes courage, takes inner strength and not everyone is up for that.

If you find yourself disgusted with both what you read and see in the news as well as on the streets I urge you to become a sunshine warrior. Put on the armor of positivity. Be warned, however, we are out numbered and the fight will be both long and difficult. You will not come out unscathed. The reward for this fight is your life, and the lives of those you care about and come in contact with. Whether we live in a world of darkness or a world of light depends greatly on whether we choose to join this fight. There will be many who will complain about the world as is, but there will be very few who are brave enough to do their part to change it.

If you find yourself tagged in this post you are a sunshine warrior. Do your part and share and tag those you feel show the courage to bring light to our world.