July 22, 2009

The gratefuls

My husband and I don't have kids, so I don't often post photos of cute children on my blog. But I can post pictures of my friend's kids, especially when I have something to say about them.

This is Lukas, the son of a good friend of mine. My friend will wonder why I'm posting a photo that's over three years old. Lukas turned 4 the other day and there are tons of adorable photos that are more recent. But I have my reasons. For one thing, it's one of my favorite photos of him, and perfectly captures his unadulterated joy. The other reason is because I love that we do that pose in my yoga class, and it's actually called "Happy Baby pose." And this post is about happiness.

I'm very interested in studies on happiness and what makes people happy. I find it interesting to wonder if it can actually be quantified. There's a lot of evidence that being grateful actually adds to our sense of well-being. And anecdotally, focusing on what I'm grateful for counterarracts the tendency to be constantly striving, wanting more, and wanting things to be different.

Sometimes Lukas and his mom practice what they call "the gratefuls" during dinner. They name something they're grateful for that day, or that moment. It could be one thing or five things. And one night when I was eating with them, when asked about his gratefuls, Lukas said, "I'm grateful that Auntie Ang is here eating dinner with us." It was totally unprompted and spontaneous. Now THAT'S something to be grateful for.

Being thankful for what's in my life, especially the people and relationships, gives me an immediate sense of calm. This is how I practice it: whenever I think of it - once a day, once a week, a few times a week, or a couple of times a day - I think of or write down 5 things I'm grateful for. I don't make it a chore, or a "have to" or another item on my "to-do" list, I simply do it whenever I think about it. And I like to call them "my gratefuls."

What I notice is that they are very nearly always the same: my husband, my friends, my family, the fact that I can walk and run and breathe easily and move my body freely, the fact that my husband and I are in good health, that kind of thing. When you pare it down to the essentials, what's important is hardly ever material. So I might be really excited about our beautiful new kitchen floor, but I'm grateful for a husband who worked so hard to make it happen.

What are you grateful for? Do you practice thankfulness, at a place of worship or on your own? Do you think it makes you happier? Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section.


Keetha said...

I practice thankfulness in prayer and in church. I'm very blessed!

I found The Happiness Project, which you may enjoy. It's a web site by author Gretchen Rubin.

Kate said...

Love the photograph! Who knew touching your toes good be so joyful?

I do think gratitude is linked with happiness. My younger daughter was making negative comments recently - a half is glass full type of attitude. I encouraged her to start a gratitude journal.

hiptobeme said...

Yes, gratitude does center me as well. When I am grateful, I am happy. I have many blessings. Wonderful photo, too. They grow so fast don't they?

calimama @ compactbydesign said...

I love the idea of "the gratefuls"! I have to say though, they really do change with kids. Some days I think I'm more grateful for sleep than I am a wonderful husband!

YearofBooks said...

Each night at dinner everyone at the table, even guests, have to tell three good things that happened to them that day. My daughter knows that if she can't think of anything she can start with the fact that she woke up in a warm bed with a roof over her head.

Betsy Talbot said...

One of my favorite sayings is that it is better to want everything you have than have everything you want.

When you take stock of the bounty of your life, it is hard not to be happier than you were before!

danielle said...

I got the idea from one of Dr. Christiane Northrup's books to share one thing I'm grateful for and proud of every day at dinner. Doesn't always happen, but when my husband and I remember, we definitely enjoy our meal all the more.

Love the gratefuls nickname and the happy baby (probably my favorite stretch of all time). :)

Angela said...

Keetha- Thanks for coming by and commenting. I do enjoy The Happiness Project. It's a subject I've long been interested in.

Kate- Of course I think all kids go through a stage - I know I did. I think mine lasted from 9-12. I hope yours doesn't last that long! My brother never grew out of his and describes himself as a "glass half full" type of person, unapologetically. It's can sometimes be funny, how hard he'll try to see the "rusty" lining...

hiptobeme- Yes, he's just turned four and his mom has started calling him "Luke." I'm not ready!

Calimama- Sleep is a wonderful thing to be grateful for, and one that I share!

YearofBooks- That's a great idea. I think it's good for kids to understand that. And what's great is that it's fine to have pat answers, they work just as well. I can always say I'm grateful for my health, and it makes me stop and think about it, and realize I truly am. Thanks for coming by.

Betsy- That's a great saying. I like it.

danielle- yes, it definitely makes for a peaceful dinner. And it's one of my favorite yoga stretches too! In my class, we usually do it right toward the end, so I'm pretty blissed out at that point! Thanks for commenting.

tammy said...

Sheer Bliss can be found in such simple things. I often forget that Angela. Thanks for the sweet and much needed reminder!