unfolding into JOY

 
 
Gratitude — and how it makes you a happier Person

In contemporary Western culture, the idea of gratitude is something that we draw attention to only once a year, on that third Thursday of November. The other 364 days are filled with achievement, desire, and gratification to accomplish all of the things that others want and expect from us. In the busy-ness of everyday life, we are left with little time and inclination to pause and contemplate gratitude.

In Buddhism, gratitude—along with other attitudes of the heart, such as generosity and kindness—is considered one of the eight paths to happiness. And, as far as I can tell, this is grounded in solid experience of the human psyche. It took me some navigating to fully commit to and understand the power of gratitude apart from the polite "thank you." But being polite has rather little to do with the authentic, or heart-centered, feeling of giving thanks.

I first started experimenting with gratitude when my world felt rather glum. The idea was to use gratitude to bring light into a dim situation. Did it work? Yes, it did.

What did I do?
Every night before I settled into bed, I created a gratitude list in my journal. When you're feeling glum, it is not easy to come up with anything positive for which to give thanks. Nevertheless, you can uncover basic gifts of your existence:
Today, I am grateful for making it through another day.
Today, I am grateful for having a house/apartment to shelter me.

There are so many things to be grateful for: your life; your body; the use of your arms, hands, feet, legs; the sun that shines; the rain; the food you eat; a random friendly smile; the friend you talked to; the seasons; nature….. As your outlook gets lighter, gratitude tends to flow more easily.

Gradually the darkness in my soul and my gratitude list became more playful — I began to notice the songs of the birds. And as my awareness for the positive grew, I began to see the light again. Eventually i turned my mind to the possibility of a positive future. And, voila, it unfolded. My experiment proved that gratitude has nothing to do with any outer situation or riches. It is an inner attitude.

Recently, I conducted a second gratitude project. This time, it was not about me but about others. Because i knew from own experience that gratitude has a tremendous power to transform I wanted to share in order to inspire others to try out a gratitude practice for themselves. I began posting a daily gratitude thought on Facebook. The response exceeded my expectations. Many shared the things they were grateful for as comments on my wall. Others started posting their own gratitude thoughts on their Facebook walls to share with their friends. In a short time there was an entire wave of gratitude sweeping through my corner of Facebook. I received notes from people saying they were looking forward to finding my daily gratitude posts and adding their own. Others thanked me for the inspiration to post their gratitude. My hope that others would follow my example and post something they were grateful for was more than rewarded. Then came the real surprise. After engaging in this public gratitude practice for about five months, I began to notice that I was much happier than I had been, and for no 'real' reason. I had not moved to my dream house, and the world at large was still not at peace. All that had changed was that I had picked up on my old gratitude practice again. There it was, confirming once again: A gratitude practice leads to more happiness. And doesn't it make so much sense? Focusing on the good lifts the spirit and contributes to an overall sense of positivity and so enhances our happiness.

Try it for yourself.

Gratitude 101: All you need is a journal or notebook, or, if you prefer to do it publicly and inspire others as well, a Facebook wall. Choose one time every day to think about what you are grateful for. I recommend doing it either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, but it can be done any time of day with consistency. It takes only a couple of minutes. Write down at least three items (or create a list of things) for which you are grateful. As you write down each item, feel your gratitude. Commit to doing it for at least 4 months. Soon enough, you'll notice how you reap more happiness!

Gratitude 102: If you have a practice of sharing meals with your partner, children, or colleagues, suggest focusing on positive experiences and thoughts over the meal. Share your gratitude and invite them to share theirs. And do this not just on Thanksgiving. The positive will beget more positivity!



 

 


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