There is no joy without gratitude

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DAY 64

5th March, 2014

I’ve spoken quite a bit on this blog about gratitude. I am not alone of course. Just google ‘gratitude’ and you will be inundated with information on the mental and physical health benefits of practicing gratitude, the best ways to practice gratitude and the reasons why practicing gratitude can change your life.

There is a reason why there is a deluge of information about focussing on the present and being grateful for what you already have. It’s because until you are truly grateful for the things in your life that make life worth living, until you stop to smell the roses, you won’t really experience joy.

Have you ever worked your ass off to reach a goal and then when you finally achieved it/bought it/experienced it/ you took a nose dive into depression? The champagne moment lasted for a day or two, maybe a week and then you flat lined and started looking for the next big mountain to climb.

We’ve somehow lost our ability to not only stay in the moment and be present and grateful, but also to enjoy our accomplishments.

It’s as if we have been conditioned to get the task done, tick that goal off, add it to the growing list of accomplishments and then move on to the next one. Well, that’s great right? At the end of our lives we will have this incredible list of achievements read out at our eulogy. People will talk about the thousands of goals we ticked off in our lifetime and…and what?

How is this living our lives? Where are we leaning into that moment of bliss and breathing in the air around us. Are we stopping time to look into the face of our new born babies, or allowing ourselves to laugh for hours with our friends? When are we giving ourselves permission to experience the joy without any strings attached? A luxurious, blissful joy of being here, right now, in this amazing moment.

Over the past few months, I have spent my days considering that everyone I meet may be dead before midnight tonight. It’s a an odd place to be in your head. A little dark,  a bit emo but also liberating. The very idea has allowed me to be thoughtful and generous, well beyond my normal parameters. It has allowed me to say things and do things that I would not have taken the time to do a few months ago. This thought has also sometimes been a reality. People have left this planet. People I know, and people I barely know have passed away over the past two months. Some have been very young, some older, some by unexpected accidents or illnesses, some from long term illness. And I have been reminded of our fragile state. Our humanity.

It has also made me consider my own mortality. I may be planning to be tap dancing until I am 110, but I may not live past tomorrow, so all I really have is today. Today, this moment right now, is all you can be sure of. So it’s important to take the time to really see what you have in your life already, without feeling the tug to get on with something useful…the next big goal. It’s important to experience the joy of being alive, no matter what.

Here are a few of my favourite tips to help you with your gratitude process:

  • Create a gratitude ritual every day – Establish a set time every day. Set up a space so you can think. This could be a quiet time in your day when the baby is asleep, or in the car before you pick up the kids, or as you eat breakfast before the family wakes up. Perhaps you can take a break from work for 25 minutes, or join up with some friends to form a gratitude circle.
  • Set up a Gratitude Journal or a Gratitude Jar – I love both ideas. Your journal can go with you everywhere, and if you are having a rough day, you can read what you have written to remind yourself of all the amazing goodness in your life. I also love the jar idea. Especially if you write each thing you are grateful for on a separate piece of paper. Traditionally these jars are opened on New Years Eve – you can celebrate with a glass of bubbly and by opening your jar and reading all of the extraordinary and amazing things that have happened to you or that you have in your life! What an awesome way to bring in the new year!
  • Write it down – there is so much research now about when we write down what we are thinking it cements it in our head. It’s even better to say what you are grateful for out loud, which is the benefit of a gratitude circle, but if you can’t do that, writing down what you are grateful for will definitely work.
  • Get Specific – Don’t write down “I’m grateful for my family.” This is how gratitude lists get boring and stale very quickly. Be specific. Exactly what are you grateful for, and why? Be very clear about what you have. For example: I’m incredibly grateful for my son, who turns up at all hours of the day and night, stays for about 15 minutes before he is off again, but always gives me a huge hug and a kiss and tells me he loves me. He makes my heart sing! Cool right?
  • Lean into the joy – This is probably best done when you are actually experiencing the moment. Start training yourself to dismiss the doom and gloom thoughts and experience the moment. My husband is a great one for expecting the worst. Every time something amazing happens to him or us, he is terrified of being happy. Why? It’s too good to be true. Nothing can be this good. Something bad is going to happen. He’s not the only one. I feel it too, and talking to many of my friends and family – they also have that feeling. It’s like we can’t get too excited or happy, because we’ll be caught unaware when it all goes south! How insane are we? We can’t be too happy because we might jinx ourselves? It’s a really messed up thought process, and it’s affecting our ability to be grateful and to experience the bliss and joy in our lives. Actually it’s affecting our ability to experience our lives. So it’s time to change that crappy thought process. When something beautiful happens – lean into the moment and be thankful that you are experiencing it. It doesn’t have to be grandiose either! Sit and smell the roses, or the freshly brewed coffee or chai latte. Take the time to pat your beautiful cat or nuzzle with your dog…or whatever you do with your pet snake. Kiss your love…for longer than two seconds, and without thinking about putting on the dinner! Tip toe into your children’s bedroom and watch them sleep. You made those little people. Wow! How precious and amazing is that? Hold hands with your girlfriend/boyfriend/brother/sister/mum/dad and tell them how amazing they are to you. Lie in that bubble bath for hours and breathe…feel how amazing and rich your life is.
  • Take a look around you – Because when you start practicing gratitude on a daily basis, you will start to go through your day looking for it, and you will experience your life in a completely different way.

‘One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.’ – Paulo Coelho

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