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Peace Lies Within July 18, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Gratitude, Happiness, Mindfulness.

As discussed in The Art of Happiness, lasting happiness and peace of mind are not tied to external events. 

It is not what is happening around us, but in us, that matters.  

Happiness is attained most easily when we change how we view the world around us. 

And it starts with a simple question, “Will this thought bring me happiness?” 

Since our feelings of happiness, satisfaction, and contentment often depend on  what we use as a frame of reference, we can increase our satisfaction in any situation by comparing ourselves to those who are less fortunate, or by reflecting on the myriad of blessings in our own lives. 

A few years ago an attack of severe abdominal pain of unknown etiology landed me in the hospital. 

Awaiting exploratory surgery to ascertain the cause of the symptoms, I started feeling sorry for myself. 

I wanted to be at home and pain free. 

I did not want to be in the hospital, lying in bed, doubled up with abdominal pain, awaiting surgery. 

Of course, the pity parties we throw for ourselves seldom do us any good.

The thoughts swirling through my mind were adding to my suffering, not alleviating it. 

Then, the Universe gave me a nudge and reminded me that I had a choice ~ I could continue to compare myself to people who were pain-free, thus increasing my suffering, or I could compare myself to young children who were in the hospital, suffering from debilitating pain, who could not understand why their parents and doctors didn’t stop the pain. 

I chose the latter comparison and felt better.  Immediately.  Nothing had to change but my perspective on the situation. 

By reminding myself of those who were less fortunate, and filling my heart with compassion for them, my calm, peaceful center returned and with it came happiness.  

After all, I was situated in a warm bed in a hospital filled with caring medical practitioners ~ I hadn’t just fallen off a cliff in the middle of the wilderness somewhere.

Nothing about my situation had to change before I could change how to view the situation in which I found myself. 

I merely had to let go of my attachment to something I desired, which was (for the moment, at least) out of reach, and embrace more fully what I already had ~ caring doctors who were concerned for my physical well-being. 

Sometimes just the slightest shift in perspective works wonders. 

No rules.  Just write!

How about you?  Have you ever improved your mood merely by changing your frame of reference?

Related posts:  The “It Could Be Worse” Game * 25 Simple Ways To Enjoy Life


1. SuziCate - July 18, 2011

It’s all a matter of perception. It takes real desire and continous effort to adjust our attitudes.

nrhatch - July 18, 2011

When I’m happy, I don’t monitor my thoughts every moment of the day. But if I notice I’m headed in a downward spiral, I take aim at non-productive thoughts and try to turn things around.

2. Judson - July 18, 2011

I find it therapeutic to “count my blessings” and to be thankful. I have to make myself stop to do this quite often because, I have an innate tendency to sweat the small stuff and to get bent out of shape over things that I cannot control.

nrhatch - July 18, 2011

We are probably hard-wired to notice the “negatives” first ~ cave men needed to focus on the sabre-tooth tigers, not stop and smell the flowers.

By forcing ourselves to focus on the positives around us, we learn that we can’t always control what happens, but we can control how we choose to view it.

3. Cassandra - July 18, 2011

Thanks for the reminder that my thoughts shape my reality… and they are luckily under my own control.

nrhatch - July 18, 2011

When we master our thoughts, we master our life. It doesn’t mean that it will always be smooth sailing, but we learn to look for the silver lining in the clouds on the horizon.

4. misswhiplash - July 18, 2011

it is so obvious really..stop thinking self instead think of others

nrhatch - July 18, 2011

I don’t know that merely “thinking of others” is always the solution. My life is pretty good most of the time . . . it’s focusing on hardships faced by others (abused animals, starving children, families displaced by tsunamis, etc.) that overwhelms me with sorrow.

Thinking about “them” by dwelling on that sadness is NOT helping them one iota. It’s just making ME miserable.

Any time we have a non-productive thought, it pays to change channels to something more conducive to inner peace ~ either by working to bring about change, or by recognizing that something is out of our control.

5. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide - July 18, 2011

I like how you strive to keep such a positive outlook even in pain. Also, glad to see the original Donald!

nrhatch - July 18, 2011

When we are in pain, it’s tempting to collapse into a heap and wait for someone else to help us up . . . but we are happier when we learn to stand tall on our own.

Aah . . . that’s better.

I love the cartoon avatars at avatarist.com ~ so expressive. Quack!

6. Vix @ LittleMissEverything - July 18, 2011

Sometimes it’s so hard to count our blessings, well done for getting through that!

nrhatch - July 18, 2011

Thanks, Vix. It’s become more and more a habit of mine.

If I feel happy, I keep doing what I’m doing. If I feel sad, I look to see if my thoughts are contributing to my suffering ~ usually they are. It is hard to change the world. It is far easier to change our habitual thoughts.

You might enjoy this:

7. Cindy - July 18, 2011

It is possible.

nrhatch - July 18, 2011

Perhaps. 😉

8. Alannah Murphy - July 18, 2011

Oh yes, changing your point of reference, certainly helps, though it is hard to do that sometimes. However, I think, even when we struggle in trying to change the point of reference, it at least shows we are self-aware of the fact we need to change, and that is better than nothing, for there are tons of deluded human beings out there, who think they are wonderful and do not need to grow, for they know it all, and as my life has shown me, it is those very people who are usually the ones who need to change the most, but they’re too busy up their own arse 😉

nrhatch - July 18, 2011

I tend to agree . . . the more we need to rethink our vantage point, the more firmly our feet are planted. 😀

9. Paula Tohline Calhoun - July 18, 2011

In answer to your closing question, “Every day.”


nrhatch - July 18, 2011

Same here. There are few days that go by when I don’t benefit from a shift of perspective . . . at least a couple inches one way or the other.

10. Debra - July 18, 2011

Yes, all the time:) By changing my perspective and for me…realizing that everything is as it should be…life is much better.

It takes practice but it works. thanks Nancy.:)

nrhatch - July 18, 2011

That’s another wonderful trick to have in our toolbelt ~ using our fertile imagination to picture the best possible outcome from whatever challenges are tossed in our path.

11. barb19 - July 18, 2011

Nancy, you hit the nail right on the head when you said “When we master our thoughts, we master our lives”. That is so true. We all have choices in whatever situation we find ourselves in – and that’s when we need to put this into action; it takes practice, but it is possible.

nrhatch - July 18, 2011

I agree. Our imaginations can run away with us (in the wrong direction) unless we learn to rein them in and use them to our advantage, rather than our disadvantage.

Eventually, we just start singing, Que Sera, Sera . . . whatever will be, will be . . . the future’s not ours to see . . . que sera, sera.

12. Tilly Bud - July 18, 2011

Whenever I feel sorry for myself and my situation, I think about those who lived and died in concentration camps. It’s about perspective.

nrhatch - July 18, 2011

So true, Tilly. Using life in a concentration camp as a frame of reference would nip 99% of our complaints in the bud. We have better clothes, food, beds, showers, healthcare . . . and freedom.

13. Pocket Perspectives - July 18, 2011

The “it could be worse” idea helps me get so much more perspective,… I sometimes get so “filled up” with my own “preferences” for how I want things to be, that I forget how fortunate I actually am…thanks for the reminder…

nrhatch - July 18, 2011

When I’m peaceful and content, I don’t worry much about where my thoughts are wandering. If my mood starts heading “south,” I tune in and see what “stories” I’m telling myself.

Often, they are worth challenging . . . because they aren’t even true.

14. Tahlia Newland - July 18, 2011

I watch what I’m thinking constantly and always look on the best side of everything. I also don’t take my thoughts too seriously. Some people say that I am unaturally happy, but it feels quite natural to me. Why wallow in miserable thoughts. My life may be crap, but my mind can still be at peace.

nrhatch - July 18, 2011

Good for you, Tahlia. When we realize that our thoughts are easily manipulated, life becomes easier . . . no matter what is going on around us.

Aah . . . that’s better. 😎

15. Rosa - July 18, 2011

Too true! Often we don’t have control over anything at all except our own perspectives!

nrhatch - July 18, 2011

How we relate to the issue IS the issue. 😉

16. the island traveler - July 19, 2011

“Happiness is attained most easily when we change how we view the world around us. ”
So, true. It’s how we perceive happiness and trying our best to make it a part of our day to day existence that matters the most. It would be great to wake up each day joyful and optimistic. happiness is achievable if we allow it in our lives. Have a blessed day.

nrhatch - July 19, 2011

I agree. I don’t wake up HAPPY every day . . . but I do have more happy thoughts than sad ones. I try not to dwell on the “negatives” unless I am working on an “action plan” and taking active steps to improve the situation.

17. Happiness runs. . . « Reflections From a Cloudy Mirror - July 19, 2011

[…] on the subject of happiness.  Where is it?  How do we get it, or find it?  She closes her post “Peace Lies Within,” with a wonderful line:  “Sometimes just the slightest shift in perspective works […]

18. Chad - July 19, 2011

This is a great sentiment, and 90% true. Sometimes, however, external events can cause depression. As I found out over the last couple months after being inappropriately touched at work and going through the whole emotional process and the legal process. I felt really awful and, worse, out of control of my own mind sometimes. Normally however I choose to maintain good feelings and it is an act of will not a matter of circumstances.

nrhatch - July 19, 2011

When we sustain a traumatic injury (psychological or physical), it does take time to bounce back. But some people NEVER bounce back. They use what has happened as an “excuse” to be sad and unhappy. They feel “entitled” to wallow in their misery ~ blaming others for destroying their happiness.

Others bounce back at the first opportunity ~ seeing that there is no benefit in remaining a “victim” longer than necessary.

When we hang on to the wrongs and injustices done to us, we are allowing others to hurt us twice ~ once with their actions and then with their continued “hold” over our emotional well-being. Of course, we’re the ones who have to choose to let go.

It sounds like you’ve done just that. Good for you. Sorry it happened in the first place. 😦

19. granny1947 - July 19, 2011

Morning NR…very good thought provoking post.
When something bad happens to me I tell myself that if this is the worst thing that can happen I am doing ok.
Also, in the larger scheme of things…is this really important?Frequently it isn’t.

nrhatch - July 19, 2011

Often the things we get “worked up about” won’t matter a year from now. If that’s the case, it pays to let go of them sooner, rather than later.

Aah . . . that’s better.

20. eof737 - July 19, 2011

So true… and you survived the problem…. which we all do when we shift our perspective too. 🙂

nrhatch - July 19, 2011

Actually, once my mood shifted . . . everything shifted and I did NOT have to have surgery. 😀

They never figured out what was ailing me . . . it just cleared up and never recurred. One of life’s little miracles.

21. flyinggma - July 19, 2011

Perspective is definitely important in how we look at our day. It is too easy to slip into the “poor me” attitude and then everything is colored negatively by those thoughts and things don’t improve from that point but deteriorate from that point.

nrhatch - July 19, 2011

I agree. Improving our mood won’t always solve the problems we face, but staying in a foul mood creates unnecessary “suffering” . . . adding insult to injury.

It is not FUN to walk around under a perpetual black cloud.

hugmamma - July 19, 2011

Amen! Rain resolves the drought, but who wants to live under the threat of downpour all the time. Not me. And I live in Seattle. So with rainy days always looming on the horizon, I turn on lots of lamps in my house…and in my soul.

no ugly clouds spoiling my day…or my thoughts. 🙂

nrhatch - July 19, 2011

I agree. If we look for “ugly clouds” we will almost always find them . . . same goes for the silver lining.

22. Christine Grote - July 24, 2011

Yes. You’re right. It really works. I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember.

nrhatch - July 24, 2011

It does. First, we must focus on our thoughts. Then, we have to override habitual (negative) patterns of thinking with more positive patterns and habits.

It takes time and effort to undo years of “worrying” . . . but it’s worth it. After all, our freedom is at stake. 😀

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