“You live longer once you realize that any time spent being unhappy is wasted.” — Ruth E. Renkl
Bill redid his downstairs floor because of, Tiger, his cat. Tiger was getting old, at 17 he walked slowly, occasionally bumping into things, he needed his daily thyroid medicine, and often he would forget to use his litter box. The carpet could only be cleaned so many times, so Bill put in a wood floor for ease of cleaning. Tiger doesn’t like to go outside much any more, and whenever he did, Bill would have to go look for him, wandering in the neighborhood lost and confused.
We’ve had many conversations about what to do about Tiger. Several people suggested that Bill should put him down. Put down his loyal companion and friend of many years? The thought just felt horrible to Bill. How do we determine what is best for Tiger?
It’s been two years since Bill put in the wood floor. Tiger is even slower. He weighs 6.8 pounds now, a fraction of the 18 pounds of his younger days. He still comes when Bill calls him, albeit haltingly, when he hears him that is. And Tiger still purrs and rolls over for his tummy rub. Bill decided that Tiger is going to let him know when he is ready to go. How? When he sees that Tiger is unhappy. Hmm…
Thankfully, whether we are happy or not is not such a deciding factor in our lives. Or is it? How do you live? Are you happy in spite of your challenges and see the positive and the potential, or do you look for the doom and gloom in each situation? We have the choice in how we feel. And how we feel affects how we experience each moment of our lives.
When we are happy, we live healthier and longer, too. A longitudinal research in the U.S. that tracked 1,500 people from childhood to old age and death started in 1921 and is still ongoing. Howard S. Friedman, Ph.D., and Leslie R. Martin, Ph.D., published the results of this eight-decade study in their book, The Longevity Project. It showed that people who are following their life purpose and are contributing to what they feel is meaningful live longer and healthier. Having social connections was another aid to longevity and exercising too.
Choosing to look for the lessons and blessings in each situation is good for our emotional, mental and financial health. We can release the stress, regain our emotional equilibrium and find within the circumstances the insights and opportunities to do better next time. It’s at least a triple win! In the process we also infect the people around us with optimism and lessons on how to improve — even more good reasons to learn and grow instead of to stew and stagnate.
Here are seven simple steps to a more vital way of living:
1. Acknowledge your current situation without blame — finding the cause of your current pain/discomfort is instructive in avoiding future mistakes. Then move on to finding out solutions and new alternatives instead of focusing on finding fault — that doesn’t move anything forward in a positive way.
2. Give gratitude for the good in the present — giving thanks for what is good calms and tunes our mind and perspective to make progress and realigns our emotional, chemical and physical balance.
3. Review your options for improving your current status — broaden your outlook and ask the question, what are my options if I allow myself to dream? Make a note of the answers and explore the ones that show promise.
4. Choose a course for action — assess all your options and choose one. Seek advice and feedback but ultimately choose the option that resonates most with your inner wisdom.
5. Move forward with courage, optimism and full commitment — once you make a decision, take action with dedication knowing that you are on the right path.
6. Reassess and adjust course as you proceed — be aware and alert to the feedback and developments on your progress, and adapt your approach as needed while keeping the goal in mind.
7. Take time to give gratitude and smile regularly — they really help!
“Every day is an opportunity to make a new happy ending.” — Author Unknown