Cultivating Happiness & Joy
I was not surprised to read a Reuters wire saying, “A review of more than 160 studies on the connection between a positive state of mind and overall health and longevity has found ‘clear and compelling evidence’ that happier people enjoy better health and longer lives.” Happiness also spreads–moods catch! Seems like something we not only want for ourselves, but for the world. Yet how does one become or feel happy, content, joyful, elated? How can we cultivate this; sow the seeds of our own happiness? One day in 1997, I found a way and I’d like to share that with you. 1997 was a challenging time in my life–one of those dark nights of the soul when happiness seemed elusive–color was sucked out of my world and was painted over in a coat of gray . Without going into the story, let’s just say that it was quite a painful time, and the Earth no longer seemed solid underneath my feet. What I thought I could count on was no longer there, or so it seemed. During this time I began to meditate, and during one of my meditations I spontaneously began to give thanks; to give gratitude. I began to realize the solidity I thought was no longer underneath me, was actually inside of me. Thus began my practice of theGratitude Alphabet. When I start my day with this practice, my internal well becomes full, and I feel such a sense of joy and good fortune. As my well fills, my capacity to give to others grows too. Giving makes me feel happy and the whole process begins to feed on itself. How does it work? The practice is simple and it goes like this: For each letter of the alphabet, I think of at least one thing I am grateful for AND I speak it aloud, and say it as if it was true 100% of the time. Then I live into it. For example, A–I am grateful for the Abundance in my life, B–I am grateful for my inner and outer Beauty, for my Body that is carrying me through this life, for my beloved dog Bear, C–for my Courage and Compassion, D–for the spark of the Divine within me, E–for my Energy and Enthusiasm, F–for my Family who loves and cares about me, for my Friends who support me, for my Faith that grows and deepens everyday, G–for my Goodness, for my Groundedness and for the Gratitude I feel, H–for my Health, Humor, Humility, Home, Happiness, etc. As I go through my Gratitude Alphabet, with each letter I feel my sense of gratitude growing and my joy increasing. Some days, when I am really low it is difficult to put much energy into my practice, but I manage and with each letter, I feel better and better. Then I begin living into that for which I am grateful. And you? What are you most grateful for? How do you practice your gratitude?