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My Happiness Project Update 12: Finding Gratefulness in Ordinary Days … And Not the Artificial Kind.

5 Sep

Often times people say health. That’s their number one answer. When all else in your life fails — your relationship sucks, you’re unemployed, you’re financially impaired, you’re homeless, your family drives you crazy,  or your life dreams have become reality nightmares — for all this there is one answer. Health. At least you have your health.

Yes! Yes you do.

But some days you want to be grateful for more than just your health. Some days you want to thank the universe or The Big Guy upstairs for something more than just the disease-free 5-foot-4 body. Sometimes you want to be grateful for more than just having two functioning legs, or the fact that you’re not Helen Keller. Although in retrospect being a humanitarian who overcame adversity to graduate college, publish 12 books and hang out with Mark Twain doesn’t sound too bad. The deaf, blind and mute thing … that doesn’t sound great, though.

In any case I want to be able to have more than just my health and kids on my list. I want more grateful items on my daily life list, or even weekly life list. So where did I happen to get some answers? My Happiness Project. Who came with suggestions? Rubin. Gretchen Rubin.

Cover of "The Happiness Project: Or, Why ...

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Apparently throughout all her research grateful people tend to be happier and more satisfied with their lives.

“Gratitude brings freedom from envy, because when you’re grateful for what you have, you’re not consumed with wanting something different or something more … Gratitude fosters forbearance–it’s harder  to feel disappointed with someone when you’re feeling grateful toward him or her. ”

Yeah I needed a little bit of that. Not because of I’m envious of other people’s success or ungrateful for the small kindnesses that few people bestow upon me. On the contrary, I’m not the Dallas-Dynasty-Telenovela envious type of chick, and I often throw out Marv Albert yeses whenever something good happens to me.

So why did I need more gratefulness? I needed to learn to be more grateful during my ordinary days, and not in a fake or forced way. Rubin suggested a daily gratitude journal, where she wrote three things for which she was grateful. I wasn’t sure I could do this and find three different things every day.

Then I read on … it didn’t work for her. Rubin said that instead of bringing her into a grateful state of mind, this gratitude journal pretty much annoyed her. She too thought it felt forced — artificial.

So she came up with another concept that sort of worked for me too. Gratitude Meditation. Not the kind where you sit in silence in that kindergarten pose and just drive yourself crazy because you’ve been sitting still for the last three minutes staring at your clock that doesn’t seem to move. This is the kind of meditation that you can do while eating some Ben & Jerry’s or sipping a glass of Framboise, preferably in a hammock. But considering that I don’t own one the couch or rocking chair would have to do.

I found during this gratitude meditation that sometimes instead of finding things, people, or events to be grateful for, I found characteristics in myself for which I am grateful. Reminders that kept the ordinary days less crappy. Stuff like … Even though I have an Everybody-Loves-Raymond kind of relationship I’m a good wife who’s extremely patient and understanding; even though I am not employed full-time and making good use of my two college degrees, I get to play baseball and have lunch with my four-year old son and one-year old daughter every day; even though some of my dreams have gotten a dose of reality, my dysfunctional family gives me gray hair, and I don’t have a back yard or walk-in closet, I find humor in life’s sucky moments.

Finding gratefulness in ordinary days has led me to believe that on a scale of 1-to-10, I’m probably an 8.7. I should be grateful for that. Considering all that has happened to me I should be a bitter 4.2, but I’m not. Gratitude meditation, who knew?