It’s been two years since I embarked on a journey to live a more wholehearted life. Today I had the opportunity to have a lovely conversation about what I’ve learned from this journey with a friend. Without a doubt, the biggest takeaway for me these two years has been the importance of a gratitude practice.
For a long time, gratitude always seemed like a fluffy, meaningless proposition to me. When I’d be in one of my cynical, deeply unhappy states and someone came up to me to remind of how gorgeous the day was or how much we got done that day at work, I’d scoff and very quickly brush aside the thought. “Life is hard,” I told myself. “I wish it was easier. These people who keep talking about the sun and the stars really have an easy life or they’d be right here with me, venting.”
Discovering a quote by Brother David Steindl-Rast in Brené Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection on the connection between Gratitude and Joy changed everything for me.
“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
I remember being very overwhelmed with this idea and thinking to myself that if this was true then I was wrong all along about those people who appear joyful and content. I had to try this out for myself to see if this was true. And so, my gratitude practice was born.
For a while, my practice was to think grateful thoughts every now and then. No real structure, just an idea that would help me out when I was low or feeling out of it. I had started to realize the power of gratitude in small amounts but it was no where close to the changes I’ve witnessed in the past year.
It was when I picked up a journal that was lying around the house and put pen to paper (literally) that I started to see what counting my blessings can do for me. No poetic or meaningful sentences were required. Instead, I wrote things like:
- Grateful for the blue sky today. I love summer.
- Grateful that dad feels better today.
- Grateful for the yummy dinner.
What followed was either an overflow of good things into my life or an increased awareness of what a good life I had. I don’t know which one of these is true – I just know that today, I have the ability to access the true joys of life – something I thought was a wishful thinking for the longest time, ever.
Can I throw away my gratitude journal and declare my transformation into a “glass half full” person as complete? Nope. Because being grateful all the time is not a realistic proposition. Life will throw challenges at me and infuriate me as it is bound to do. I cannot expect to remain poised and happy all the time – that is delusion. A practice of gratitude is something that despite how bad things are going, allows you to momentarily put on your rose tinted glasses and see the good things happening to you. It’s a tiny little kitty door for joy to re-enter your life in little doses.
I hope you’ll consider this post as an invitation to open this little door in your lives. I promise it will give you the strength to deal with the tough times and multiply your joy when life is good.
Here’s wishing you a very happy 2016!