Look beyond yourself
I read a little poem many years back when I was going through a stressful time. It was called "Day's End" (by John Hall) and started with the lines, "Is anybody happier because you passed his way? Does anyone remember that you spoke to him today?". Reality smacked me in the face - I was too busy thinking about me, myself, and I to notice how anyone else was feeling, let alone actually making any effort to brighten their day. We all know the power a few kind words or a thoughtful deed have to turn a rotten day (or even week!) around. For me, the list is endless; there was a family who took me in for an entire afternoon when I was caught on the road in a snowstorm, a cashier in the grocery store who gave me a cactus when I didn't have enough change, a friend who bought me flowers when I was miserable about my bad haircut - just to name a few!
Make it your mission to do or say at least one nice thing every day. It doesn't have to be time-consuming, expensive or difficult, but make sure it's not something you usually do anyway (ex.. hug your husband/wife). Go out of your way to tell someone how much you appreciate his or her enthusiasm or friendship, or be more specific by praising a job well done. You may think someone who excels at something (your mother baking those killer chocolate chip cookies) doesn't need to hear it, but that couldn't be further from the truth. It's a natural, human need to be told we are appreciated! Just be sure you are genuine, and don't go overboard by constantly complimenting people constantly on every little thing (they won't value it anymore). Try an experiment; spend an entire day focused on making other people a little happier. This doesn't mean you should put others' needs ahead of your own; simply pay attention to what's going on around you and notice ways you could help out. My guess is you will realize that you have hardly thought of your own difficulties throughout the entire day. So, by giving to others, you are in turn giving to yourself a nice little bonus!
by T.L. Scribe