Mindfulness Part 3 – Cultivating Gratitude and Joy

Okay, I have to admit that I haven’t done my planned five minutes of mindfulness for the past two days. I meant to do it Wednesday and forgot. Thursday I was busy making things for a picnic and then busy picnicking. Both days I was grumpy and not so fun to be around. I can give you all the excuses in the world including “it’s hot”, “it’s humid”, “I didn’t sleep well last night”, and “I have PMS”. All of those excuses are true. However, they don’t make my life more joyous. This leads me to my next topic in my series on mindfulness: cultivating gratitude and joy.

I have a friend from church who has a smile on her face almost all the time (even if a half smile) and whose attitude about life is positive, yet realistic. She doesn’t deny that difficulties happen and she doesn’t shun her experience of them. Rather she seems to be able to accept life’s difficulties and still find things to be grateful for. And, at least to an outsider, it seems as though the act of being grateful for things leads her to real joy. I want that. Some days I find it easy to be grateful. Heck, even when I had to put my beloved cat to sleep, I managed to be grateful for the time I had with her, the quiet time in which I could grieve, and a host of other things. That gratitude didn’t lead to outright joy, but it certainly led to a peace during my mourning.

So, why is it so hard to be grateful at other times? What gets in the way? My thoughts. When my cat died, I wanted to remain connected to her, so I tried to think of as many positives as I could — about her life and her loss. I didn’t want to drown in tears, though the first few days were certainly full of them. In the everyday, ordinary messes of life it’s more difficult for me to be grateful. Somehow, my own thoughts get in the way.

Mindfulness is a wonderful way to reconnect to the present moment, shutting down the thoughts about the past or the worries about the future. When I actually fully engage and focus on the present, I discover things. I feel a sense of wonder about the ordinary. I notice something I hadn’t seen or heard before. These little discoveries lead naturally to gratitude and the gratitude leads naturally to joy. So, maybe I need to think a little less about my failures to be mindful and simply be grateful that I know what mindfulness is and that I’ll use it when the time is right; that I was able to be educated about it; that I had the funds to go to college and grad school; that I have the freedom to sit at my desk and write about these topics without fear of persecution for being too educated, not religious enough, or a woman. There really is so much to be grateful for. In fact, just last night…as I grumbled my way through a picnic commenting on how loud the music was, how lousy the alcohol was, how tired I was, how much I didn’t want to make small talk with people…just then, at the end of the night, I struck up a conversation with someone who mentioned to me that he had just learned about mindfulness on a TED talk. He mentioned his new goal of doing three things a day to express his gratitude. And that little conversation at the end of the night gave me plenty of food for thought for this blog and writing this blog brings me joy.

There really IS so much to be grateful for. How will you cultivate gratitude and joy today?

Peace, JOY, and health,

Megan

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