Happy feelings

A boy was walking home from school when he saw the branches of an apple tree hanging out over a tall fence. From one of the branches dangled a large, tempting apple. The boy wasn't much of a fruit-eater, preferring a bar of chocolate if given the choice, but, as they say, the forbidden fruit can be tempting. Seeing the apple, the boy wanted it. The more he looked at it, the hungrier he felt and the more he wanted that apple.

He stood on tiptoe, stretching as high as he could, but even at his tallest height he was unable to reach it. He began to jump. He jumped up and down, springing as high as he could, at the top of each jump stretching his arms to grab the apple. Still it remained out of reach.

He thought a little more about how he might solve his problem. He thought perhaps he could climb the fence, but as he faced its tall, smooth surface he could find nothing to grip—no footholds, no handholds, nothing. Damn.

Not giving up, he thought, if only he had something to stand on. His school bag wouldn't give enough height and he didn't want to break the things inside, like his lunch box, pencil case, and

Gameboy. Looking around, he hoped he might find an old box, a rock, or, with luck, even a ladder, but it was a tidy neighborhood and there was nothing he could use.

He had tried everything he could think to do. Not seeing any other options, he gave up and started to walk away. At first he felt angry and disappointed thinking about how hungry he had become from his efforts, how he really wanted that apple, and how crisp and juicy it would have been for him to sink his teeth into its flesh. The more he thought like this—the more he thought about what he had missed out on having—the more miserable and unhappy he became.

However, the boy of our story was a pretty smart guy, even if he couldn't always get what he wanted. He started to say to himself, This isn't helpful. I don't have the apple and I'm feeling miserable as well. There's nothing more I can do to get the apple—that is unchangeable—but we're supposed to be able to change our feelings. If that's the case, what I can I do to feel better?

Perhaps if I think differently about the apple, I might feel differently, he continued, trying several ideas. The apple didn't really belong to me, so perhaps it was bad to take it. Maybe the apple wasn't ripe and, if I had eaten it, I might have a rotten bellyache by now.

As he began to think those thoughts he started to feel happier. He said out loud to himself, "I'm glad I wasn't able to reach it." The more he thought that, the happier he felt, and the happier he felt, the more he chose to go on thinking the thoughts that helped him feel happier.

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