We’ve been conditioned to think that joy is fleeting and a result of external circumstances.
When our lives seem to match the picture in our heads of how things “should be” or we’re going through a “good patch”, we feel joyful.
But when it doesn’t and we face unexpected challenges or get thrown different curve balls, we enjoy life a lot less.
This is true both on a personal and societal level.
Collectively, if the economy seems stable and life feels settled and somewhat predictable (gosh, we can hardly remember what that’s like…), then we feel positive about the future and we can enjoy life.
But when it doesn’t… Life feels heavy and we can fall into patterns of anxiety and hopelessness. And right now, this couldn’t feel more real.
The problem with placing conditions on our joy based on external events, possessions and accomplishments is that, when things don’t go our way or take an unexpected turn, we’re left paddling, fixing, controlling, in an attempt to feel it again.
But this only leaves you, me and everyone depleted and even further away from our joy.
But joy doesn’t live outside of you. Genuine joy is your essence and it can be accessed any time you desire, regardless of what’s going on.
Today I’d like to share a very simple (scientifically proven) practice that I shared with my students this week – gratitude.
It’s nothing new or fancy, but the simple practice of writing down (or saying out loud) things you’re grateful for in your life.
The beauty of it is that it only takes a minute and you don’t need to learn anything new, and it can leave you feeling good about life instantly.
Here’s what the science says:
- Practicing gratitude daily has anti-depressant effects.
- When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our “feel good” emotions’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.
- By consciously practicing gratitude everyday, we can help these neural pathways to strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves.
Research also shows that expressing gratitude daily contributes to:
- Better sleep
- Better immunity
- Higher self-esteem
- Decreased stress
- Lower blood pressure
- Less anxiety and depression
- Stronger relationships
- Higher levels of optimism
The more I learn, the more it strikes me how much of our happiness and wellbeing is in our hands, and how such simple practices can have such a profound impact.
And I’m so glad that science is catching up on the benefits of practices once considered too gentle to be taken seriously.
So I have an exercise for you. Take the next 5 minutes to yourself, take a deep breath and write down what you’re grateful for right now. Don’t censor yourself.
Now think about a challenging person or situation. What are you grateful for about it/them? Try to find at least 3 things. But if more come to mind, keep it going.
Now read your list.
Do you feel lighter? Relieved? What came up?
The truth is that we have so much to be grateful for. Every single day. It’s just that a lot of the time we don’t even notice it.
It’s also important to give ourselves permission to tend to our happiness and wellbeing when we know so many people are suffering right now. It’s not selfish; it’s necessary, so we can be available to be of service and help contribute to solutions.
Now, just a small word of caution. You can’t gratitude practice/meditate/pray/wish your way out of a bad situation.
The point of these practices is to expand our awareness and give us the bandwidth to fully lean into the wildness of the human experience – while remaining centred in a wider perspective.
And sometimes feeling “bad” is not only appropriate, but necessary to move forward with power.
I hope I’m not sounding preachy. Everything I learn and share with you is stuff I need myself.
My true wish for you is that you remember your immense beauty, power and limitless ability to create an abundant, rewarding and rich life experience. And that you find the tools that allow you to do so.
I’d love to know, what has this conversation opened up for you? Leave me a comment below.
With all my love,
P.S. Every Monday, I run a free group meditation on Zoom, 7:30pm NZ time (6:30am London) – I’d love you to join me some time. There’s always a different theme and I use my expertise as a Chopra Meditation™ instructor to create an experience that leaves you nourished, uplifted and in touch with your true essence. Join here. It’s always the same link.
P.P.S. Want to know more about the benefits of gratitude? Here are two good articles about it: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-gratitude-5206817