A while back, I was looking at Sharon Lovejoy's blog post about what happiness was. Sharon is an artist, a gardener, a wonderful cook, and and all around wonderful person. She hosts The Grimy Hands Club that you see on my sidebar. I am always inspired by what I read at Sharon's blog, both when she is in California, and when she is in Maine. I love her design sensibility, her lovely studio where she creates wonderful books, and I especially love her gardening ideas. Living in southern California she is lucky to be able to have things blooming right now that I have to wait a few months for, living in northern California where it tends to be a bit colder.
But this post, in particular, appealed to me and was a bit of synchronicity once again because my book group is studying the book "Awakening Joy" which I have mentioned several times in the past. In there, on page 72, is a section that is titled "The Benefits of Gratitude" and the author quotes UC Davis psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough in their research regarding this topic. Sharon, by coincidence (or maybe not???) received a journal from a friend and inside was the above paper. I find it so interesting when things link up like this for me. There are no coincidences in life; I am positive of this.
Last week, when I was having a bad night and unable to sleep because of some deep emotional pain I was going through, I stopped and picked up the book and read the entire chapter "Finding Joy in Difficult Times". A quote that resonated with me was this "No one can escape death and unhappiness. If people expect only happiness in life, they will be disappointed." And this quote: "Trying to avoid or deny an emotion locks it in. Not resisting the pain of negative states of mind is an act of bravery that allows them to dissolve." So, I got up from reading the chapter and typed an email to the person to whom I was experiencing the pain from and wrote all the things that I was grateful to her for. I hoped it helped her. I know that it helped me.
But, getting back to the topic of what happiness is and synchronicity, here again, I was reading one of my friend's blogs "Life is Like a Box of Chocolates". and she had posted that she had chosen the word "Live" as her word for the year 2012. And not because she wasn't living or didn't have things in her life that she was thankful for, but because she wanted to change some things in her life and she wanted to be more grateful for the small things in life that go unnoticed most often. (I am paraphrasing here...I hope that I got it correct. If not, correct me Kim.). Anyway...I wrote to her because in the book "Awakening Joy" James Baraz suggests that every time you find yourself complaining or worrying, you should add on this simple phrase: "...and my life is really blessed." He also suggests employing an ally to keep you on track..."Your partner, child, or Joy Buddy." Aha!!! This rang true to me. And so, I contacted Kim and asked her if she would be willing to write out 5 simple things each day with no pressure, no expectations to do it or not, just a person to check in with that is unconditional.
And guess what? She thought it was a great idea and we have been sending 5 simple little gratitude lists to each other (almost) every day. There have been days when you are so busy that you just fall into bed and forget to zip off the email. No problem. No expectations. Just joy!
And, as James Baraz says on page 75 "If appreciation and gratitude feel so good and lead directly to joy, why aren't we going around all of the time counting our blessings? Because, as with other wholesome states, it takes practice to get in the gratitude habit. But even putting a little time into it can have a significant impact on your level of well-being." The choice is ours!!
Kim: I am so grateful for your friendship and your willingness to walk with me on this journey. I am happy to call you my "Joy Buddy" and I look forward to all the benefits that this will bring the both of us at the end of the year. I am grateful that you and I have committed to do this and grateful for the ability to look at the end of the day and find the small things that really make the difference in my life. (sometimes just the fact that I have ears to hear the blackbirds in the trees!!!) AND MY LIFE IS REALLY BLESSED!!!