I’ve started a practice of gratitude. I know, I know, same old boring stuff, right? Wrong. Each day I state three things for which I am grateful – different things every day and prompted by my experience on that particular day.
Two things guided me to start doing this:
- A friend of mine was challenged to post three things she was grateful for on Facebook for 5 straight days.
- The book, Happy For No Reason, by Marci Shimoff
When my friend began posting her five days of gratitude, my immediate thought was, why stop there? Why not do this every single day? Now, this was a good thought, yet I procrastinated. After all, every morning when Tom and I sit down to breakfast and each evening we share our evening meal, we say grace. We offer thanks for the day, for our food, for life, and for each other. We alternate saying grace and it is entirely off the cuff. Admittedly, there are times we do the abridged version simply because we tire from saying the same things over and over. Yet, we adhere to this practice.
Then I read Happy For No Reason. Did you know that in Thomas Jefferson’s day, the word pursuit had a different meaning? To TJ and his compadres, pursuit meant practice. So when we read the Constitution, the founding fathers weren’t guaranteeing us the right to chase down happiness, they were guaranteeing us the right to practice happiness. This is at the core of book: instead of chasing down happiness, practice operating from a foundation of happiness. One of the ways given to establish the foundation of happiness is to offer gratitude each and every single day.
So I married those two guiding things together and began my own practice of offering gratitude. Each and every day my offer of thanks is different and specific. One morning I offered gratitude for the yellow blooms of the desert senna which cheered me; for the dogs who roust me out the door for a walk in the morning; and for the bat that zipped by chasing down pesky mosquitoes and gnats. Another day I appreciated the crunch of stones beneath my feet, a testament to the fact that despite my tinnitus, I can still hear quite well.
Is my foundation of happiness in place? Since I’ve only been doing this for a few days, probably not, although after answering questions to one of those quirky Facebook quizzes, I’m told I operate from a place of Joy. What is most surprising to me, however, are some unexpected fringe benefits – side effects, if you will.
First, as I go about my day, I am on the alert for things to appreciate and that puts me squarely in the now. In her book, Marci shares that scientists have figured out that 80% of our thoughts every day are recurring and negative which definitely gets in the way of happiness. Now I’m so busy looking for things to be grateful for, I don’t have time to think those crazy negative thoughts that try to squirm their way into my brain.
Second, it reminds me of my connection. The Superstition Mountains are topped with rock spires called hoodoos. The day I offered thanks for the hoodoos, I was reminded of the legend* of the hoodoos which, in turn, reminded me of the ancient people who trod the earth I walk today. Instantly I felt connected in a way I’d never felt before.
Third, gratitude is a great teacher. Yesterday I stood in the desert in the morning and spun in a slow circle admiring the sky and giving thanks to the clouds. To the east, the bellies of the clouds hung low and were tinted lavender and pink. To the north, stormy cumulus clouds billowed high and sparked with lightening. To the west, a dusky blue and grey haze hovered over everything. To the south, the sky held a few wisps of milky white. It didn’t matter that some clouds were drifting and others were threatening. Each cloud caught the light of the rising sun and created its own beautiful masterpiece.
And I thought, this sky is showing me the colors of my soul. Although my emotional palette may change from day to day, like the sky, my soul is always beautiful.
Then I wept for the beauty around me and within me. They were tears of happiness.
*Oh, by the way, in the ancient legend, a prophet warned the ancient people of a great flood. Many people discounted his claim and stayed where they were. Others believed and climbed the mountain to safety. When the great flood came, the people who didn’t believe, drowned. Those who climbed the mountain were saved and, for their belief, now live forever as the stone hoodoos.