In The Book of Joy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama discuss how to find inner joy during a week-long meeting in Dharamshala, India. They break down eight pillars of joy; four of the mind, and four of the heart. Mind--perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance. Heart--forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, generosity. Over the next eight blog posts, I will break down these pillars for you into something tangible. I want you to read along and really consider how you are applying these principles in your life so that you can feel greater inner joy.
Research is showing that gratitude (much like forgiveness) can reduce depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure, lower stress, and improve sleep.
When we work on our spiritual wellbeing, everything seems to improve, and that is what makes it easier to stick with. Addressing your spiritual wellness begins a cycle of positivity that will improve your overall health and happiness. In fact, I was just telling a friend the other day that I believe a sign of healing is when accessing gratitude becomes easier. Gratitude begets gratitude--it is a positive cycle that continuously enhances your life.
The idea with gratitude is that it is accessible to you without fail. You can always say "thank you" for something. Even in the toughest of moments, you can come to your breath and be grateful for the air in your lungs. I like to practice micro-gratitude moments. I tend to frustrate easily, and anger is barrier to joy; therefore, when I feel myself becoming irritated, I think of something I am grateful for in the moment. This is a micro-moment. It is something small and objectively great, it helps me to have perspective, and it brings me away from anger.
An example of a micro-moment is when I'm really hungry and pick up a to-go meal for lunch, drive home, and open it to find that something is missing or my order is completely wrong--with the added physical need of a blood sugar hit, this is extra frustrating. I take a breath, look at the food before me, and say "thank you for this food that nourishes my body, I am grateful to have something to eat." Boom. It is objectively good to eat--can't argue with that. My hunger is going to be satiated. Additionally, in this micro-moment, I imagine briefly what it would be like to not have food and am immediately grateful in body and spirit: my blessings speak louder than my misfortunes.
Gratitude has changed my life and the lives of many of my close friends. It is a pillar of joy!
I want to help you get there, too.
I have compiled seven, low-barrier gratitude practices for you to try. Tell me in the comments how it's going or email me if you feel stuck. Let's get you on the path to gratitude!
7 Gratitude practices to try:
Keep a journal on your night table and before bed write down 1-3 things you were grateful for that day.
When your alarm goes off in the morning, make it a habit to say something you are grateful for before you get up or grab your phone (challenge yourself by saying something different every day).
Make it a habit before each meal to notice something around you that you are grateful for.
Begin to praise your body and be grateful for what it does for you--during a workout, thank your body; after accomplishing something for your physical health (getting up, showering, walking, brushing your hair, drinking water, etc) thank yourself for caring for your body.
Practice thanking your spouse or partner or child or pet for things that seem trivial or expected. "Thank you for hugging me good morning," or, "thank you for doing your homework," or, "thank you for making the coffee."
Think of someone who annoys you--find something to be grateful for about them.
Say a prayer of thanks every day.