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Want to be happier (or at least keep the negative, grouchy, irritable side of yourself in check)?

It’s a natural tendency to gripe and complain.  And many of us (I know I’m guilty) often get bent out of shape about the most inconsequential things.   Like someone cutting in front of you on the drive to work (which may have cost 2 whole extra seconds drive time!) or a waitress not pouring more coffee at the exact moment we wanted a refill or the phone at work keeps ringing.  Maybe your boyfriend or girlfriend didn’t call when they said they would or you dropped mustard on your favorite shirt.  How annoying right!?

But these are all really just minor inconveniences.  We all can have a tendency to dwell on them and let them ruin the day.   But each is almost always just a matter of not having things our way at the very moment we want, my expectations (or wants) aren’t being met and I focus on the negative part of any situation.  Those two things, unrealized expectations and dwelling on negatives, can ruin your day, your week, and before you know it you are a perpetual grouch!  It becomes a habit and a bad one.

So here’s my one simple tip to get you out of that funk.  (And if you are like me the first time I tried to do this, you’ll find it harder than you would guess – but it gets easier the more you do it).

Make a list of things you are grateful for!

It’s that simple.  It is hard, if not impossible, to remain in a foul mood when you are full of gratitude.  If you believe in a higher power or God, thank them for these things you are grateful for.  I know many people (those used to dwelling on the negative side of things) will say they don’t have anything to be grateful for.  Sure you do.  You can start small.  Think of anything that makes you smile, gives you pleasure or makes you happy and just say, “I’m grateful” for __________.

For instance:

  • I’m grateful for the worker at the market who offered me a sample of  “Queen City Cayenne” ice cream.  I tried it last weekend and it was delicious and unexpected.  A complex mixture of chocolate, cinnamon, and pepper that I really enjoyed.  I never thought pepper in ice cream would be, or could be, good.
  • I’m grateful that it didn’t rain when I went to the baseball game with my dad Tuesday night since I left the umbrella in the car. (and the home team won 18-3!)
  • I’m grateful that even though someone dinged my car the other day, at least I have a car to drive at all.  Many don’t.
  • I’m grateful for lemonade and ice tea mixed together.  It’s so refreshing in the summer.
  • I’m grateful for how happy my dog is when I come home.  It always puts me in a good mood – although I could pass on his overly strong penchant for licking my face.
  • I’m grateful when a song I love, like Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”, comes on the radio.
  • I’m grateful for music.
  • I’m grateful for my job (even if the phone rings too much) Many people are struggling to make ends meet at all and don’t have a job.
  • I’m grateful for the popcorn at the movies.
  • I’m grateful for bluebonnet flowers.  Seeing even a picture of a field of bluebonnets makes me happy.  (see above)
  • I’m grateful for the movie “Casablanca” – the dialogue is so clever, I never get tired of it.  And Ingrid Bergman is still one of the most beautiful women I ever saw – extra grateful and worth another picture 😉 

Anyway, you get the idea.

Let your mind wander.  Yeah, it’s corny and may make you feel a bit awkward at first.  Most of us aren’t used to practicing gratitude.  But, if you think about it, there are hundreds of things to be grateful for each week.  And just reminding yourself of that fact can take you out of a negative frame of mind.

Maybe it will even become a habit.