I’m reading Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection and one of her ten guideposts is Cultivating Gratitude and Joy.
I’ve spent a lot of time and effort on the subject of happiness. How could I be happier? How could my homeboy be happier? How could I better promote happiness among my clients and students?
I thought traveling more would make me happier, practicing more yoga would make my happier, spending more time with friends would make me happier. And they all did, for a time, but then at the end of the day there would still be this feeling of ‘less than,’ of ‘not enough’—as though I was empty and needed to be filled up.
I was missing the whole point.
Gratitude is an attitude. Joy is something we cultivate. What I was searching for was not happiness, but joy. What I needed was not to ‘do’ more, but to ‘feel’ more. Brown says that the difference between happiness and joy is that “happiness is tied to circumstance and joy is tied to spirit and gratitude.” What makes people joyful is not the trip to the park, but being grateful for the trip to the park and all it did for the soul. She also points out that joyful people are not just more grateful, it’s that people who practice gratitude find more joy in their lives. It’s a choice that they make, moment by moment, day by day.
Could it really be this simple?
Yesterday I had a shitty day. Like car broke down, fought with my man, lost some classes, threw a tantrum shitty day. I was actually excited to get into bed at the end of it all and throw it all over the pages of my journal. As I brushed my teeth, I was already rehearsing the lashing that I would leave on the page.
I sat down, cracked open the book and turned to my weekly ‘to-do’ list.
- Up at 6am—nope.
- Took iron supplement—nope.
- Read more than watched T.V.—nope.
- Gratitude (this was a new box just added the day before)
Just as I was about to put a big fat ‘X’ in the box, I flipped the page and wrote “I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful knowing that I am loved and supported no matter what and that they will always be here for me. Even if I was ‘alone’ I would never really be alone. I will always have my family. And for that I am grateful.”
And that was it. The anger lifted off of me in such a palpable way that I had to laugh. Maybe it really is this simple.
Practicing gratitude brings on more joy.
I’m always one for a challenge, and my challenge this month is to keep a gratitude journal. I’m big on words, and love to put the pen to paper. So for me, physically writing down what I’m grateful for will help keep me on board. But a gratitude practice doesn’t have to look like that. It might be simply thinking of what you’re grateful for at least once a day. Or maybe it consists of you saying out loud what you’re grateful for. Whatever it is, I dare you to practice gratitude for one whole month and not feel more joy.
1) Find a quiet space and get comfortable
2) Think of something that you’re grateful for. Bring an image to mind, let it fill you up. The smell of it, the sound, the way it makes you feel.
3) Say (out loud, or silently) “I’m grateful for ___”
4) Let that marinate for a few moments
5) Crack open the space in the center of your chest and send out your love and gratitude.
6) With heart wide open, receive all the love and gratitude that is coming right back at you.
7) Live, love, repeat.
*For the yogis out there, there is a new Instagram challenge for the month of August called #yogratitude. Post a pose, and post what you’re grateful for. Community always seems to motivate. I’ll be doing it…you can catch me at shawna_turner. Let’s do it!
P.S. What are you grateful for?
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Ed: Sara Crolick