I recently started to take some old books off the shelves and look through them. One that caught my eye was Dan Baker’s What Happy People Know. I read it many years ago, and I'm not exactly sure what made me take it down off the shelf. I guess the universe had a message that it wanted me to hear again!
In this book, Dan says, “[t]o be happy, you must overcome fear, and the best way to overcome fear is with LOVE. Many people, though, cannot find their love.”
Wow, that last sentence struck me as being so sad. But I'm guessing that it's not that uncommon. I think that many people are so distracted these days that they can't even remember to look for their love, let alone be able to find it.
Dan’s #1 piece of advice for remedying this situation: Focus your mind and your spirit on APPRECIATION. And here, I’m just going to quote from Dan for a bit:
“Appreciation is the highest, purest form of love. It is the type of love that can blossom even when it is not returned. It is the outward-bound, self-renewing form of love that has no dependence upon romantic attachment or family ties. People who truly appreciate feel the same about the object of their appreciation whether it is present or absent. They appreciate it even if it is, by objective standards, not worthy of their appreciation. Appreciation asks for nothing, and gives everything.
When you enter into the active state of appreciation – whether over something as common as a sunset or as profound as the love in your child’s eyes – your normal world stops and a state of grace begins. . . . Creativity flows, heart rate slows, brain waves soften into rolling ripples, and an exquisite calm descends over your entire being. During active appreciation, your brain, heart, and endocrine system work in synchrony and heal in harmony.”
Yes, that’s right, appreciation can actually help physically heal your life! Dan recommends taking 3-5 minutes, at least three times a day, to think about something you deeply appreciate. During that time, you can appreciate one subject or several subjects. You can focus on things big or small. It can be your children, chocolate chip cookies, or remembering the best vacation you ever had.
The important thing is the quality of the feeling. Close your eyes and really imagine the object of your appreciation. Dan calls this exercise the Appreciation Audit. It is a powerful form of focused meditation, which has positive effects on the brain that can last for up to several hours after the exercise is completed.
Even when the worst thing in the world happens, whatever that might be for you, there is always something or someone (including yourself) left to love and appreciate. And as love increases, fear decreases!
I have been conducting the Appreciation Audit for the past few days after picking up the book again. It's been a lot of fun and has produced some incredible feelings of peace and joy!
I highly recommend giving the Appreciation Audit exercise a try! Is this something you would be willing to do? And if you do try it, how was your experience? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!