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How happy are you? Could you be happier? What makes us feel content?

Well, the key to happiness is.....gratitude! I bet you were hoping to hear something a little more exciting. I'm afraid that's it! It's easy and simple. We often think life is complicated, and don't feel naturally good about ourselves, but we have to go back to basics, and really be honest with ourselves. If we are truly grateful, then we are content, no matter what situation we are in, and we can appreciate what we have like it is our last day. We don't have to wait until we lose something to really feel true gratitude everyday. Being grateful isn't boring, it's excellent! Unfortunately teenagers may often feel they have to act sulky, aggressive and ungrateful to appear cool. Life is about choices and we can always feel bored, blase and take what we have for granted and just want more of everything. But that is for the suckers.

So, how can we be grateful? How can we feel grateful. It is all very well telling you this, but most of us have to work extremely hard at any given moment in time to feel grateful. And it doesn't usually last very long. It usually takes a death or a good movie for us to experience these feelings. I have a simpler solution. As usual, it is simple and free of charge, and can be used at any time!

You have to go through everything that you are truly grateful for on a regular basis! Does that sound boring? It might sound it, but it's really very rewarding. It makes you feel much better about yourself. You have to put something in to get something out. The best way to do this is to write a Grateful List (no matter how exhaustive - the longer the better!) of all the things you are grateful for. Really squeeze out all the juice. And remember, as with references, you don't have to just write down everything you are grateful for in the past. It should include the present and also the future. Treat the exercise as a shopping list of experiences, situations, possibilities, personal qualities, relationships and material objects in the universe that you want. Don't be shy. Don't be modest! Write them all down. If you feel good about the result now, and vividly visualise enjoying each one now, you are more likely to follow through and be motivated to actually achieve it. And people are more likely to respond to you to make it happen. And the universe may even provide it for you. Who knows! So write down all the great things from the past, things you wish you had done in the past, and things you want now and in the future. It can include your education, things your parents have done for you, experiences you have had the fortune to have, wealth or possessions, loved ones, hubby, life, health, freedom, etc. any of these things. Maybe make an electronic copy of it, save it, print it and laminate it. Whenever you think of something great, add it to the list. Then read this list EVERY morning. No excuses! Read it over breakfast for example, but make it part of your daily routine. If you start the day by being grateful, putting yourself into a peak state of mind and focussing on what you want, then your day will turn out so much better. And you will leave breakfast feeling so much better about yourself and your life!

A great way to focus, and appreciate what you do have in your life is to strip everything down to the essentials. If your life is too cluttered with different activities, or your home is full of too many possessions, it is difficult to focus and really appreciate what you have. It is even worse if you are very messy or chaotic! One rather ruthless technique (for some people, including myself) is to get rid of/give away/sell anything that you haven't used or looked at in the last 2 years. You may want to make certain items exceptions, like DVDs or CDs, but this is your choice. Once you start simplifying your life, you will probably feel much better about it, find it more relaxing, and the things you do have in your life have more meaning again.

It is clearly easier to appreciate something that you have created, built up, found, earnt or worked for yourself rather than something which is simply given to you as a present. For example, if you've saved the money to buy a car, choose the specification and buy it yourself, it feels great. But simply being given a car as a present or as a company car doesn't create the same feelings, and you are more likely to abuse that car as a result and not treat it with as much respect as if you bought it yourself. However, just because it is harder to appreciate something that you've inherited or been given, doesn't mean it can't be done! It simply requires a little more effort. The effort to put it in perspective and look at the situation objectively. This is often the reason why the middle classes in developed countries are often accused of being unappreciative, fussy, demanding, miserable and sometimes rather flakey. For teenagers, this is why so many middle class teenagers get depressed or are rebellious. When you get so much without having to lift a finger, everything loses its meaning. Far from doing their children a favour and showing them love, all it does is to create apathy and a sense of being spoilt. By getting more does not make one happier. Often it has the reverse effect. Meaning and gratitude is all important and without these we have nothing. Spoiling children and taking away their self-determinism and fight to get/earn what they want in life, making things too easy for them and not encouraging them to pursue their dreams and goals, separates cause from effect and takes away one's ability to feel good about things and often results in a loss of direction and disassociation. One aspect of this loss of meaning is the tendency to develop beliefs like 'I didn't ask for this' etc. and to simply look at what is wrong around you, lacking the ability to engage in the world around you in a positive way, and simply expecting more of everything to happen to you to make youself feel good, rather than feeling good and being grateful with what you've been blessed to actually have. It is sometimes referred to as the middle class disease. However, in industrialised countries, living standards have increased significantly over the last 30 years, and many segments of the working class are now rather affluent and try to ape the middle classes in their materialism and spoiling of children. So the 'disease' simply spreads to all segments of society.

Remember feeling grateful is all about using your focus! And controlling it in a positive way. You cannot control your focus until you grab hold of it and point it at what you want it to point at. That is all we are doing here. Write your grateful list now, and encourage your friends or loved ones to do so, and swap. This could inspire you in areas that you had neglected and could also be fun!

You could try carrying a pebble or other object around with you every day. Perhaps a cute cuddly soft toy type key ring. Everytime you put your hand in your pocket and feel the pebble or object, you are feeling the 'gratitude pebble' and have to think of everything you are grateful for right now.

You could also create a scrap book or notice board with pictures of things or people you are grateful for and things that you really want in your life and look at it often. Cut out pictures from magazines or other sources. It could be the ideal bathroom. The ideal cottage or flat. Your dream car. Your dream partner. Your dream watch. Anything!

A grateful list doesn't just have to be a list, it can be visual, and the more you can visualise each thing you are grateful for and each thing you want the better! Whether you can visualise by looking at a visual aid or create the same level of intensity and realism by just visualising mentally is your choice. You could set aside 5 minutes each day to work on visualising one particular thing. Whether that is the same thing each day or different theme each day is up to you (and how often you repeat the themes is of course up to you). Imagine sitting in that perfect garden in your dream house. Imagine being hugely strong and fit and running a 100m in under 10 seconds. Imagine driving that sports car and changing gears and hearing that engine hitting the read line. Imagine cuddling with your ideal partner. Imagine being in pole position or winning that race or competition. You are the best. You can even 'try' the things you dream of, like test driving the car, visiting a large business, visiting a house for sale, and visualise having it. It doesn't cost anything! Make it so! Don't make it a chore though, it should be something you enjoy doing. Dig out life's shopping list...

© 2006-2024 Fabian Dee