Barton Goldsmith column: How to appreciate your life
The last couple of years have been a challenge, to say the least, and it looks like life will stay that way for a while. Rather than wallow in self-pity, which is very easy to do under our current circumstances, I am putting in a little extra energy to keep things in my orbit balanced.
I am not one to close my eyes to problems, but sometimes my brain plays tricks on me, and I see problems where there aren’t any. Right now, I’m happy to be alive, I love my surroundings, I have a loving partner and pet-children that I adore, we live in a lovely home on a lake, and strangers know my name and read my words. I have an admirable life by many standards, but sometimes that’s hard for me to see and feel.
It’s not an uncommon predicament, especially with highly sensitive and creative people or perfectionists. When we have time on our hands, we can easily let our minds drift into looking for what’s wrong, not enjoying what’s right in front of us. It’s an easy trap to fall into. Out of necessity, I have created a few techniques for dealing with it. See if you can make these work for you.
— Do daily appreciation exercises. These can be very simple. For example, just repeating the second paragraph of this article works for me. So does stepping outside and allowing nature to ease my soul. There is constant beauty around you if you look for it, even if you are in the heart of the city.
— Look for what’s right. Instead of beating myself up about my perceived flaws, I go on a Sherlock Holmes-like search for what’s good. I glance at my books and their translations in other languages, all of which are sitting on my desk for this very reason. Likewise, it helps to display honorary plaques, diplomas and other things you’re proud of having done or created, to remind you of what you’ve accomplished.
— Stop futurizing disasters. We all are worried about the future, but spending time imagining yourself living in a post-viral, zombie-infested world is not a good way to keep it from happening. When you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, just make yourself stop and remember something wonderful from your childhood — pony rides, carnivals, school dances — whatever makes you happy to recall.
— Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. It is so easy to give to other people, but many of us expect too much from ourselves and don’t give ourselves enough credit. If you’ve succeeded once, in any area, you can succeed again in a different area. You get life credit for what you have done; allowing yourself to feel those past successes will empower you, so you can redirect that energy into your current goals.
Life has been difficult, and that’s hard enough to deal with. Getting down on yourself will only make you (and those you love) feel worse. Energy is infectious, and positive energy is downright contagious. If you project it, people will be attracted to it, and life will become nicer. This is real internal work. If you do it, the benefits are well worth the effort.
Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, California, is the author of "The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time." Follow his daily insights on Twitter at
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