How to Cultivate Happiness: Savor Life Like a Child

cookiegirlI was working on my laptop at Borders Bookstore recently when a father came in with his daughter, who looked to be about 10 years old, and the son, about 6. They sat down at the table next to me and pulled out their homework.

Before they started their homework, the dad asked if they wanted anything to eat or drink. What a question to ask kids!

The daughter wanted one of those large oatmeal cookies with cranberries. Her dad went over to the counter, bought the cookies and placed it in front of her.

I tried to maintain focus on my work. I always buy a cup of coffee to sip while I work, but fight off the urge to buy the sweets. My resolve was weakening.

Little Miss Cookie Eater broke off a piece of cookie and studied it before she lifted it to her mouth. A little nibble, a little nibble, and then pop! the whole piece went in her mouth. She chewed it slowly savoring every cranberry and crumb.

Why couldn’t she just devour that whole cookie so I could get back to my work?

She took so long eating that cookie because she was clearly prolonging it and getting delight from every bite.

You can guess the end of the story.

After the kids finished reviewing their spelling words, they left with their dad, but visions, smells and crunching memories lingered. When I couldn’t stand it any more I rushed over to the counter and ordered my own cookie.

“An oatmeal cookie with cranberries. Heated please.” I said to the clerk.

When I returned to my seat with my wonderful purchase, I thought about how much children enjoy food and activities they love. They use every sense to experience what they eat and what they do.

So take a lesson from children. Next time, don’t just chomp into that shiny red apple or the tight crisp green one, for example.

Study it first. Turn it over and look at the many shades of color on it. Run your hand over the smooth finish. After you have become acquainted with the apple, bite into it slowly. Listen to the sound it makes when your teeth puncture the skin and pull off your first bite. Feel the splash and trickle of juice.

Slowing down to engage all your senses, to capture the joy and full pleasure from your experiences, cultivates happiness in your life.

How to Cultivate Happiness: Get Rid of the Weeds in Your Life

Working dog by meg price on flickr

Working dog by meg price on flickr

Weeds are a type of plant that appear in even the best of gardens. A whole industry of tools, techniques and herbicides has been created to get rid of them. Why are the grass and plants we call weeds so unwelcomed?

Weeds are the dreaded enemy of beautiful gardens because they compete with your garden for water and nutrients. Likewise, the weeds in your life must go because they sap your energy and block the intake of positive thoughts and action toward your goals.

What are some of these weeds?

1. Some weeds were born into your life through no fault of your own. They are better known as family. Some family members are wonderfully nurturing and a joy to have in your life. Others are toxic, negative, choking the life out of your goals and positive action. You know the ones I mean. They are the ones who leave a heavy cloud of doubt, depression and sorrow even after they are no longer physically present.

2. Some weeds you brought into your life. These are better known as friends, spouses and children. While we all would love to be able to share our dreams and goals with these people closest to us, it’s not always the wisest thing to do. Be selective about sharing your dreams with those who don’t have your best interest at heart. Even though they may have good intentions, watching you go after your passion makes them afraid for your safety and ashamed of their own lack of action. If you let them project their fears and insecurities on you, your progress toward the life that makes you happy will be slowed if not stopped.

3. Some weeds come into your life based on circumstances and situations. These are better known as neighbors, coworkers, and members of clubs and associations. When you were hired by your company or when you joined a given church or club, folks were already there. Some of these people will share your interests and become close friends and partners. Others may feel threatened by your positive actions and work to sabotage you.

How do you remove these weeds from your life?

Minimizing contact is the first step to reduce exposure to the life-sapping efforts of people out to diminish your worth and devalue your goals. When on a job, for example, you choose carefully the people with whom you will have lunch or take breaks.

There are some, of course, from whom you must sever ties as soon as you are aware of the damage they are causing. When you are in any relationship where you sustain physical, emotional or psychological violence, your life and well being depend on removing yourself as soon as possible to safety.

Preventing future weeds from entering and taking over your beautiful and thriving life is the next step. Now that you can recognize them, you can act quickly to keep them from getting a foothold in your life.

Finally, be on guard against inviting and entertaining your own internal weeds in the form of negative thinking and self-destructive habits.

As you practice more positive thoughts, follow your passion and pursue your goals be prepared for the efforts of the weeds to return. It’s their nature to go where they can get nourishment. Now that you are set on cultivating happiness, you must absolutely deny their presence in your life.

But don’t worry about them, they are a hardy and determined breed. They will soon find new, unsuspecting hosts nearby.