By Barton Goldsmith Tribune News Service.
When we aren't feeling good about our lives, it's usually because one or two things went wrong; we focus on these things, and we can get obsessive to the point of not being able to see the good that is around us. Yet little moments of appreciation can make the difference between a good day and a bad one. Give this a try.
1. Remember last night's sunset. And make plans to watch it again tonight. That kind of beauty will help you find a little balance within. At first, you may only be able to appreciate it mentally, but let it sink into your heart. That's where you need it.
2. Tell someone that you appreciate him or her. "Dinner was great" or "Thanks for being there" are words that will come back to you. Appreciation is not a one-way street. If you aren't getting any, take a look at how much you are giving.
3. Do something nice for someone you don't know, like letting them have your parking space at the mall. This will make you feel a tiny bit better about yourself and your life, because you've made someone else's day nicer.
4. If you get mad at life, look within. Check in with yourself and see if any of your buttons have gotten pushed. There is a reason you are upset, but it could be different from what you think.
5. Look for new things. A great exercise is to take a walk and look for 20 new things you have not seen before. Once you get to 20, you will have disengaged from your upset. The situation may not have changed, but you have had a moment to get away from it, so you can think more clearly.
6. Volunteer in your community. Nothing makes me appreciate my life more than helping those less fortunate. You may have wealth, but what is its value if you can't appreciate life? When you lend a helping hand, the warmth you receive in return will fill your heart.
7. Remember what you've accomplished. Even if you aren't feeling all that great about things at the moment, recognizing that you have come a long way helps. You have come through some darkness before and you will again.
8. Believe in yourself. If you know you are a good person, regardless of what anyone has said, listen to your own thoughts and heart. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
9. If there are no people around, hang out with your pets. If you don't have one, then go to a shelter or an adoption center and just pet one of these homeless creatures, because the love gets returned. I know several people who do this as a form of therapy, and their lives are better for it.
10. Trust your inner voice. Ask yourself if you have done a good job with your life thus far. You won't lie to yourself, and if you see some areas where you could use a tune-up, get yourself one. Your heart and head know where you are emotionally. Listen to what they have to say.
Appreciating your life is not supposed to be work. It's a way of allowing yourself to forgive any transgressions and make the promise that you won't go down that path again. It's easy if you do things that you know will be appreciated. ___ (Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of "The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.")