As I was driving into Chicago I noticed a billboard for a popular restaurant that read, “Happiness from scratch.…”  They were depicting a home cooked meal and I fully agree that nothing beats knowing your ingredients.  This billboard got me wondering, what about internal happiness; where does that fit in?

When I think about internal happiness from scratch, I think about creating happiness every day within ourselves.  This happiness is based on our own thoughts and beliefs, as well as the thoughts and beliefs you’ve inherited. I mean, some of the best food comes from handed down recipes.

I believe sustainable happiness, that isn’t based on a fleeting occurrence, comes from gratitude.  Being grateful for what is brought into your life and thinking about it as though it was done for you, rather than to you, —- I believe that is the mindset for happiness.

You’re whipping up the ingredients for your day, but you’ve misplaced your car keys.  You’ve got work, so you decide to hop on the bus.  On the bus you overhear a patron, and realize you know them.  You tap them on the shoulder and they are elated to see you, and you converse the entire commute.  Later that week, a friend asks you if you know of a nanny.  Turns out you do; and you have her most recent phone number because you just saw her on the bus.  Good thing you couldn’t find your car keys that morning!

However, if your mindset is that life is being done to you, then finding gratitude and acceptance is impossible.  If, after overturning all the furniture in your home, you did hop the bus, your annoyance may have caused you to drown out your stress with your blaring headphones.  Or maybe you’d have felt so downtrodden that, even if you did recognize an old friend, you might have felt too ‘woes me’ to acknowledge them.

It’s all about your mindset.  You are creating your experiences.  If you tell yourself, ‘nothing good happens to me,’ you’ll constantly be on the look-out for proof of that and nothing good will happen to you.  We all want to be right.

Gratitude takes acceptance: accepting that your keys are missing; accepting that to get to work you’ll need to take the bus.  It’s about making the most of what is.  Of course, losing your keys is not ideal, but if it is what is, and resisting it only adds stress.  Accepting it doesn’t mean giving up; it simply means you accept what is. Acceptance allows you to find a solution that is rational.  Throwing a tantrum, cursing the skies; this won’t make your keys appear, and that resistance is really a resistance to life itself.  Eckhart Tolle explains, “If you’re stuck in the mud, and you keep resisting it, you’ll only sink deeper.”

Challenges arise in every life.  When you look at challenges as gifts to teach you, or reveal something to you, then life is constantly offering you nuggets of beauty.  When you look on life as though it’s being done to you, you’re at odds with it.  You’re victimizing and disempowering yourself.  There are no lessons or gratitude from this place.

In 2013 I started having vision issues and was eventually diagnosed with Acute Zonal Occult Outer Retinopathy (AZOOR).  It is an auto-immune disorder that affects the retina, causing blind spots, ongoing photopsia (a strobe-like effect), and partial color blindness.  There is currently no cure or treatment.  Along with the vision loss, I also experienced a rapid loss of hearing, as well as tinnitus.  I fully believe this condition is happening for me, and not to me.

I’ve had to learn to ask for help.  I’ve found kinship in others with disabilities.  I am more patient. I’ve come to appreciate the eight o’clock hour where I can be outside without my sunglasses, before darkness falls. I no longer take personally the reactions of others when I slow up a line because of my condition.  I’ve had to dig deep within myself and for that I’m grateful.

Was your handed-down recipe from a primary care giver whose glass was half full or half empty? Most likely you’ve learned your view of life from that person.  Perhaps it is a valued ingredient in your recipe for happiness, or perhaps you’ve needed to seek out a new perspective to better fit the person you feel yourself to be.

You make this recipe each and every moment through your acceptance and gratitude.  As with all recipes, the more you make it, the easier it becomes, and the more creative you feel to welcome in new ingredients.  So, set aside a little time to reflect on your ingredients and smile as you whip yourself up a little happiness from scratch.

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