Practice Mindfulness, Acceptance, and Gratitude by Dennis Liegghio (excerpt from Building a Foundation for Happiness )
AcceptanceA great deal of my anger, disappointment, frustration and despair came from unmet expectations… expectations that I was holding onto of myself, of others and of life. I spent many years wasting my energy wishing that people, and life in general was different. Unrealistic and unmet expectations are counterproductive to finding peace and balance and happiness. I was constantly miserable, ungrateful and dissatisfied.
Change is necessary, constant and unavoidable. Nothing stays the same. What is “fair” or “just” or “right” does not exist – only what “is”. We have no control over other people’s beliefs, actions or behaviors – people aren’t what we think or wish they “should” be – they simply “are”.
Acceptance is achieved by letting go of our expectations and planting ourselves firmly in what “is” – for that is reality, the only thing that matters. Focusing on anything else is a waste of time, energy and health and it really is as simple as that. The next time you find yourself getting angry or frustrated about something you simply can’t do anything about, calmly remind yourself to focus on what you can control (your reaction) and let go what you cannot (everything else).
“Happiness equals reality minus expectations.” – Tom Magliozzi
MindfulnessMindfulness is about being in the moment – not dwelling on the past, not worrying about the future, simply being where you are right now and experiencing only that. Practicing and cultivating mindfulness relieved a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety in my life. I lived in a constant state of worry, frustration and panic and I didn’t even know it.
When I first started learning about mindfulness, my first step was to simply notice when I started getting into these obsessive thought cycles (about work, about whoever I was dating, about what had to get done, or what I should have said, or what this person thought of me… are they mad at me? Did I piss them off somehow? Oh my god, I have so much work to do tomorrow, I’m never going to get everything done. On and on and on and on!)
So I learned to take notice of this, and interrupt myself. I would touch something nearby (a wall, a piece of furniture, etc.) and take three very deep breaths. Breathe in, hold for a few seconds, and breathe out. It was a 30 second break to remind myself that wherever I was, whatever I was doing – it was the only thing that I could be doing, the only thing that mattered. I practiced and repeated this simple exercise whenever and wherever I could: taking a shower, shaving, brushing my teeth, driving, writing, playing my guitar, walking, spending time with someone. After a month or two (of daily practice), it became habit.
Soon enough, it seemed almost anything that I was doing could be seen as an opportunity to practice being present. Walking, washing dishes, cleaning the house, writing a song, driving. I found so many opportunities to practice mindfulness in my daily routines and it helped me to become more patient, kind and focused. You can only exist in this moment. Practice being fully present in whatever it is that you are doing.
GratitudeIn my darkest times, I was focused solely on everything that I wanted or needed or didn’t have. I focused on how successful or happy others were (in my eyes) and wasted all my time wishing my life or house or family was more like theirs. It was an endless cycle of negativity and wanting – nothing was ever good enough. It’s easy to get stuck in a thought pattern of what we wish we had, or to focus on what other’s have that we don’t – but it’s pointless and insignificant to live by comparison when the reality is that we have so much to be grateful for everyday.
What we need to survive is a very short list: air, food, water, shelter, and human connection. Everything else is a want, a luxury, a gift – and these gifts should be reflected on and appreciated. As I learned to practice gratitude, on a daily basis, for everything and everyone that I had in my life, what was missing became insignificant.
Take some time each morning when you rise and each night before going to sleep to reflect on the gifts in your life. Even in my darkest hours there were people, experiences and gifts each day that I could be grateful for. Keep a gratitude journal, take lots of pictures, create photo albums – reminders of who and what you are thankful for and surround yourself with these things.
Yes, there are hard times – financial hardships, job losses, breakups, accidents, injuries, sicknesses, challenges, obstacles, uncertainties and minor everyday irritations. We all face this stuff throughout our lives, and nobody’s life is perfect or without struggle (no matter how perfect you think it is). There are ups and downs, sometimes we have less, sometimes we have more – but there are things to be grateful for in our lives everyday and THAT is what we need to shift our focus to. Once you learn how to adopt an “attitude of gratitude” you’ll find that the grass is green on your side too.
Building a Foundation for Happiness
by Dennis Liegghio
Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy -- because we will always want to have something else or something more. ~Brother David Steindl-Rast
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~ Melodie Beattie
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude. ~Denis Waitley
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