My mother, Beatrice Lewis, is 103 years old. She possesses a wide, generous smile, and easily shares her joy. She is comfortable in her own skin and people of all ages are drawn to her.
On a regular basis, my mother states “I’m grateful that I can be grateful.” She understands that gratitude is necessary for leading a satisfying life. These days every self-help book on the market emphasizes the importance of gratitude. She was decades ahead of all of them.*
In her book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, psychology professor Sonya Lyubomirsky suggests keeping a gratitude journal and documenting 3-5 things you are grateful for each week. My personal variation is finding something new to be grateful for each day.
It helps me start each day with a sense of wonder, looking for an opportunity to be grateful.
Research shows that temperament, or the way we look at the world, is at least partially determined by genetics. Growing up, I struggled with the idea that I would never be as kind and compassionate as my mother. I learned to simply be in awe of her and inspired by her example. I was not alone in this — everyone who knew my mother as a child said that even then she was kind and thoughtful.
Her family, loving and supportive, taught her to ask not how things were, but “What do you know that’s good?” She explains, “People have so many hardships, why not skip to focusing on the positives?” She also says, “The more you give of yourself, the happier you will be,” and “If you can do something to make it easier for someone, I think you are blessed to have that opportunity.”*
Optimism and gratitude are two of the traits that renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow found in people that he called “self-actualized” — those that led successful, healthy, and relatively happy lives.
The more you give of yourself, the happier you will be: That’s one of my mother’s secrets to a long, well-lived life.
*Excerpt from my book, The Ball’s in Your Court: A Doctor Shares Life Lessons from Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, Abraham Maslow and other Inspiring Teachers.
Pick up your own copy on Amazon.
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