As a child, everything is new and exciting. The colors, sounds, and crowds at an amusement park are designed to overwhelm a kid’s senses, but a place as seemingly mundane as a grocery store can inspire the same wonder. Imagine being a child in the produce aisle for the first time. You’d hear the screech of shopping-cart wheels along the tile floor, the squish of a shoe stepping on a fallen grape, the shine of a green apple, the specs of dirt on an organic mushroom, or the crinkle of a Brussels sprout’s leaves. Should mom permit it, you might have even reached out to feel that bumpy cucumber or fuzzy peach.
But what do you see in the produce aisle?
As adults, do we stop to look at the vibrant color of a strawberry? Or feel the smooth texture of a papaya? Do we stop to enjoy the sites and sounds of simple happiness?
Generally as adults, we no longer see the world through a child’s lens. Lost in the daily grind, we lose the sense of excitement for simple things. We could easily go through each day seeing work as no more than a paycheck, a neighbor as just “that guy next door,” or a special holiday as any other day. This type of thinking can put us on the fast track to a muted life, where fun screams of adventurous roller coaster riders become dull background noise. When we lose the spark of interest for being present in our own life, it leads us to apathy, which doesn’t get us too far in our personal happiness.
How To Build Your Own Amusement Park
Luckily for us, apathy can be changed. As humans, we have the skills to train our brains for positive change. We don’t control everything in our environment, but we do control how we respond to the events that happen to us. It’s not easy to change our knee-jerk reactions. Altering the view of our job, for instance, can be difficult if we’ve always seen it as a burden. Positive retraining takes time, and occurs precept upon precept, but if we can begin to shrug off a boss’s rudeness or distance ourselves from gossiping coworkers, we will find that the office seems a bit more enjoyable. Learning to manage our “perception personality” through positive energy begins with small steps. Making an initial effort to notice the positive experiences helps us to more actively seek them out. Soon, a much brighter picture of our situation begins to emerge, and with the right outlook, there’s no telling where we will begin to discover happiness. We can find an adventure in the morning errands, or turn a rainy day into an excuse for some relaxation. Once we’ve honed the skill of positive perception, there’s no real limit to the world we can build. Through the right lens, our daily life experience can become a custom-built amusement park.
Goal: Engage in positive conditioning (repeated patterns of behavior) designed to alter an apathetic appetite for life with improved happiness.
Exercise: Remember, that you only have immediate control over what you can change—your perceived outlook and attitude of a situation and environment.
Here are some keys to enjoying the roller coaster ride in the amusement park of life, instead of watching it pass you by:
- Express verbal or written gratitude daily for one thing you have recognized brings you joy.
- Attempt to help another see a positive where a negative could be.
- Visit a boardwalk, a mall, a city center, or an amusement park and walk around for a few minutes, paying close attention to how your mind and body respond to the sights, sounds, and reactions of the people surrounding you.
- Pay close attention to any increase in your energy level and write down the triggers that sparked a positive reaction. Written records of positive thoughts, and gratitude for them, help to retrain our brains more effectively.
- As you go through your daily routine, try to apply this spark of positivity to every situation—especially those that seem mundane or uninspiring. Practice this ritual often enough, and the energy you infuse into those parts of your life will begin to prompt a lens of happiness, rather than one of complacency or boredom.
Lisa Cypers Kamen is acclaimed for her engaging blend of positive and spiritual psychology coaching, workshops, and philanthropic projects. Through her books, radio show, media appearances, and inspiring documentary films, such as “H Factor: Where Is Your Heart?,” Lisa recently launched Harvesting Happiness for Heroes, a non-profit corporation dedicated to bringing integrated psychology coaching tools and mindfulness training to Veterans and their loved ones. She has been featured on The Huffington Post, ABC and CBS television, Yahoo News, and Money Watch. You can visit Lisa on her website, Facebook or Twitter.
Photo courtesy Julie B. Handler