“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” -Lao Tzu
This Thanksgiving, I was grateful for these two sweet boys and the joy they brought to our quiet, low-key holiday.
The month of November is a month in which we turn out thoughts to what we are grateful for in our lives. It’s a time when my Faceboook feed is flooded with everyones daily thoughts of thankfulness. The importance of gratitude has been on my mind over the last several months and how I strive to bring more of it into my life. With countless tragedies and so much suffering in the world, I feel that life is too precious and too short to not be grateful for what I have. In conjunction with that, I have been thinking about my depression and ways to keep it under control so that I can focus more on happiness. Granted I have pregnancy hormones raging against me these days, but that is just temporary. I stumbled across this Ted talk, by the monk David Steindl-Rast that really appealed to me.
It seems like a simple idea that gratefulness is what leads to happiness. I feel as though somewhere inside me it is an idea I’ve always known but not an idea I have given much attention. I have had this vague sense that it is important to be grateful, but never really thought about how that gratefulness could impact my happiness.
In the years of suffering with my depression, I have often spent my energy focusing on how to not be depressed. Lately, with this recent focus on the need for more gratitude and to have a present mind through meditation, I have decided to focus on how to be happy. That small shift in thinking feels huge to me. Again, it may be a simple, no-brainer, but to me it feels groundbreaking for my outlook on things.
In addition to happiness, gratitude can bring with it an increase in self-worth and self-esteem, provide strategies for coping with stress and anxiety, encourage a stronger desire to lead a more altruistic and compassionate life towards others, strengthen relationship bonds, and diminish anger and greed. (As noted in this wonderful blog post about gratitude.)
I want to bring my family along with me on this journey so that they may also appreciate the importance of being grateful. It is so easy to breeze through life and miss the small moments to be thankful for and I do not want them to live life that way. Especially these days as my toy hungry five-year old continues to add more and more to that Christmas list, I am really eager to slow him down and find more gratitude.
I love the way David Steindl-Rast suggests approaching a grateful life with the simple plan that we teach to children as we cross the street.
Stop. Look. Go.
By bringing more stop signs into our lives, we can appreciate what is around us. I know too often I am just trying to get through the day and even eagerly anticipate its end. How many millions of moments to be grateful for am I missing living this way? If I could just plant more stop signs throughout my day to notice what is before me.
To make this goal a more active effort, I am planning to create a journal for our whole family to participate in adding to. Maybe not every day at first because I have found trying to start daily traditions are tough, but hopefully a couple of times a week (with the goal of eventually daily) we take a few moments of our day to talk about what we have to be grateful for in our days and jotting them down (or drawing pictures). And with this record, having a way to look back over all that fills our life. It is also important to me that we learn to focus less on the things and more on the people, experiences, and feelings to appreciate in our world. Through this attention to gratitude, I hope to find more peace, love, and happiness in our family’s every day lives. It sounds quite dreamy, but it could very easily be our reality.