“You can’t really be happy for other people if you’re not happy with yourself.”
Undoubtedly, you have heard this expression before. If you find yourself unable to celebrate the accomplishments of those around you, here are some simple tips that I learned from my dog, Friedrich, for turning my gloom into glee.
1. Trot around the yard barking (or in our case, shouting) just because you can. When I let Friedrich outside, he usually just sits on the deck and watches the birds and squirrels go about their business. But, occasionally, after he has been sitting there awhile, he gets up, for no apparent reason, runs down the deck steps and trots around the yard giving a cheerful bark or two. This inevitably makes him wag his tail, and unbeknownst to him (or maybe not) brings joy to anyone who happens to be observing this act of “I am happily running around the yard simply because I can.” When was the last time you ran around the yard just for fun?
2. Never eat alone. Friedrich’s dish is perpetually full, but he almost never eats from it unless somebody is in the kitchen with him. Clearly, he has learned that dining with others is half the fun of enjoying a meal. It’s no fun to eat by yourself, no matter how good the food is.
Eating is a social activity, and therefore, eating too many meals alone can contribute to your overall misery. Find someone with whom to dine, at least one meal every day. (Friedrich’s favorite dining partner is my father. Whenever he shows up at my house, Fred sees it as his cue to head to the kitchen and dig in.)
3. If you have an itch, scratch it (or find someone to scratch it for you). Sometimes, while lounging around the house, Friedrich gets an itch on his head or his back. He grumbles and snorts a bit, and then finds a way to scratch that itch. Often, he charges the leather couch like it is the cause of his discomfort, but ultimately, rubbing his head along the side of the couch seems to do the trick. If you have an itch that is causing you discomfort, and therefore making you act grouchy toward others, find a way to scratch it and move on with your day.
4. Sit politely near someone who might share a treat with you. Friedrich is a smart dog. Early on, he learned that if he sits quietly next to someone who is eating, with his gaze fixed intently on that person as she enjoys her cheese or piece of chicken, perhaps that person will share a bite with him.
This technique almost always works on me. “Look at how sweet you are being, not begging at the table!” I tell him. He blinks his big, brown eyes at me, and next thing ya know, he is enjoying his own piece of cheese. If you are grumpy because your friends and family aren’t sharing with you, maybe you’re being too pushy. Try Fred’s relaxed approach next time and see what happens.
5. Take a nap in the middle of the floor. Sometimes life gets overwhelming. It’s OK to take a break every now and then. Fred likes to find a comfortable spot on the floor, in spite of the three beds he has in three different rooms in the house. Sometimes the middle of the floor is the best place to daydream. Don’t forget to rise slowly, stretching and yawning loudly, when it’s time to wake up.
It’s no fun to be unhappy all the time. And, like I said, it’s nearly impossible to be happy for your friends and family when they are in a good mood and you’re not. Remember, change takes place slowly, so you have to start somewhere. If trotting around the yard shouting, “I’m happy to be alive!” helps bring a smile to your face (and your neighbor’s) why wouldn’t you do it? Not long after you try something new, it becomes a habit and before you even realize it, you are the one spreading happiness to those around you. This is a proven, fail-proof method of changing your attitude. It works for Friedrich every time.