April 21, 2010

The gratefuls

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. I'll be back tomorrow with a brand-new Thrifty Threads.

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.


Carol Ashworth said...

For years I was depressed about being single. Then I started focusing on the many wonderful things in my life: my friends, family, church, two good jobs, my dog, etc. What happened is that I stopped being so concerned about being single, and began to enjoy my life just the way it was. Now I am happily dating someone and I believe it's largely because I was already happy!

Angela said...

Carol- That's exactly what happened to me! In fact, when I first met my husband we didn't like each other, and when we met again a few years later, the first thing he said to me was, "You look so optimistic." Because I was- I had accepted myself and my life the way it was.


Non Consumer Girl said...

Next time I am in yoga class doing happy baby pose, I will have this cuties face in my mind!

However, my face is never in joy when I do the happy baby pose! More like and endurance face .....