About five years ago I sent an email to a good friend of mine in which I complained about something pretty trivial. I was astounded when I received her response.

“I don’t understand you. Why are you always so unhappy and miserable? You have more financial security than many people I know, you have children who love and adore you and you are multi-talented. Get over yourself already,” she wrote.

Really, I thought! Who the hell do you think you are!’ But when I went to bed later than night and lay ruminating and brooding about her comment I thought back to the time when I had quit smoking about eight years before. I had been hospitalized after a stroke for about six months and when I was discharged I had become a non-smoker for the first time in about thirty years. I went home and the next day I had to make a decision not to buy cigarettes. I had to make that same decision every day for the next three years as I fought off my nearly constant cravings. I chewed gum, I started to exercise every day by walking about four miles per day, I got a dog to accompany me on my daily walks. As I lay there thinking about this I thought, I can choose to practice happiness and I did. For the next year I posted a daily gratitude posting on my Facebook page. Each morning I would post something:

  • Today I am grateful for electricity

  • Today I am grateful for clean water

  • Today I am grateful for my sense of humour

Pretty mundane things, really but, over time, I began to really appreciate the small things in life that so many of us (including myself) just take for granted. Doing this has profoundly changed me, the way I see the world and the way in which I interact with the it. It has allowed me to become a new person, to reinvent myself if you will.

Along the way I have discovered and incorporated other techniques which have helped me discover the secret to happiness and I want to share them with you.

How can I be grateful for my woes you might be asking. Let me reframe that for you a bit and see if it doesn’t make a difference to you in the way you see it.

I am a Type II diabetic and have been for about 30 years. It is a terrible illness and I have to do many different things to maintain my health.

  • I have to take insulin once a day and medication twice a day

  • I have to check my blood sugar three times a day and keep a log of my results

  • I have to exercise

  • I have to eat a balanced, healthy diet

Okay, so let’s break those down. Taking insulin is no fun but it is not actually giving the injection which is unpleasant it is pricking my finger to check my blood sugar. When I was first diagnosed I was so sick and depressed, my psychiatrist admitted me to the hospital. When they did the intake blood work they discovered that my blood sugar was 25 times the normal level. They did not even mess around with trying to get my blood sugar under control with diet and medication, they immediately started me on insulin. Why am I grateful for being a diabetic? Because it has taught me self-discipline and self-control. I must eat well and take care of myself. Without this diagnosis I would probably have continued along with my terrible eating habits until they killed me with a heart attack. So, even with something bad like Type II diabetes I have learned to see the good in it.

The thing that goes along hand-in-hand with practicing gratitude is practicing appreciation. Even if you and your partner negotiated that he or she would get the garbage to the curb on garbage night, don’t forget to say thank you when you notice it has been done. We all live such busy lives which sometimes feel like we are living inside a pressure cooker. It is, however, important to stop from time to time and acknowledge the things people say to and do for us. Being loved is not a right. It does not “just happen”.When we come into this world we are a blank slate. Earning the love of other people does not happen in a vacuum, it happens when there is trust, appreciation and kindness between two individuals. Learning how to live a life of gratitude allows you the space you need to let the love in and out.