As submitted for publication in Recorder Community Newspapers, April 21, 2005,

After a long, white winter, spring is a welcome friend—if a bit late. The buds on the branches have turned our desperate anticipation of spring into a hopeful excitement. We can’t help but feel happier about life as we rejoice in spring’s homecoming.

With our renewed outlook, we know that every day- no, every moment—is a new beginning. However, if you are like most people, this fresh appreciation for life will fade long before the flowers that are just now blooming. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Don’t wait for a season, person, or event to give you this gift. Instead, make a conscious decision to live a happier life.

There is nothing new about what I’m proposing—to choose happiness. I see it promoted all over—by magazines, popular psychologists, and spiritual leaders. Consider the Chinese proverb: You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair. Although this advice has been packaged in many different ways, it often involves creating a daily routine that encourages you to appreciate life. For example, some suggest meditating daily or saying a prayer of thanks before eating. This kind of advice is pervasive and has a long history because it works.

Spring gives us, without effort on our part, an appreciation of life. Use this gift as an incentive to consciously create routines that maintain this appreciation. The possibilities are infinite. Some suggestions are:

• Take a few deep breaths each day. How much more simple can you get?! Begin or end each day with ten deep breaths. Think about nothing else. Just appreciate the feeling of inhaling fresh air and exhaling tensions.

• Enjoy eating. For at least one meal every day, choose wisely and prepare it healthily. Sit down, chew your food, and savor the taste. Note that you cannot fully do these things while engaged in other activities.

• Enjoy exercise. If you are anything like me, ”enjoy” is not the first word you think of when you consider exercising. However, make the effort to appreciate that your body can exercise. Allow yourself to feel good about taking care of yourself in this way. As you incorporate exercise into your life, pay attention to the cumulative positive effects on your body. And, on those days when a high energy level and a desire to exercise collide, enjoy the burst of feeling healthy.

If you don’t like my particular suggestions for finding happiness, then create your own daily routines that encourage an appreciation of life.

On days when life seems to fall effortlessly into place, these routines make the world a brighter, more wonderful place to live. On days that seem to fight you from the moment you open your eyes, they become a lifeline to the good that life has to offer.

So, whatever each day brings, remember to consistently and consciously appreciate something—anything. Don’t wait for reminders—like spring– to make you happy. Rather, direct the rejuvenated feeling you get from spring into a commitment to create this feeling every day.

The Recorder Newspapers has over 250,000 readers and publishes weekly editions in 19 newspapers, which cover Morris, Somerset, Essex and Hunterdon counties of New Jersey.

Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
Basking Ridge, NJ