Gratitude: a joyous practice

Funny how focusing on something brings more of it to your attention. I found an old copy of Runners’ World this week and flicking through it I found an article on the transformative possibilities of gratitude! Or, put differently, the practice of giving thanks for the gifts and opportunities that we have in our lives: from the mundane tasks around our home or at work, to caring responsibilities, or the 1001 things on our ‘to-do’ lists. The author had realised that when she was whining – to herself – during her training runs that there were friends and family who would desperately love to be well enough to be outside running, no matter how tough the session.

This transformed her experience to an ‘I get to …’ rather than a begrugding ‘I must/have to …’.

I ‘get to’ walk my dogs in the beautiful countryside around here every single day. I ‘get to’ see the season changing deep in the woods where few people ever walk. I ‘get to’ clean my home today because I’m lucky enough to have a roof over my head when millions lack basic shelter, food and water. I could go on …

I don’t think this exercise is a cheap trick, far from it. Those of us with access to the internet have, in many respects, very comfortable lives, but it is precisely because of this level of comfort that we (well, many of us anyway) don’t even begin to appreciate or notice what we have until someone else shows it to us or events cause us to look at our lives in different ways. Now being privileged or comfortable doesn’t bring automatic joy with it. There are plenty of profoundly sad examples in the media about young heirs/heiresses or celebs ending their lives; and at the other end of the spectrum, people who can see the joy or meaning amidst the suffering in war-torn or famine-ridden countries (on meaning see especially Victor Frankl). But when you see, read or hear that in many places to even have access to clean water or a single bowl to eat all your meals from is a luxury, something to be aspired to, and then you take a moment to look around your own home, no matter how basic it is … and see the contrasting extravagance that (for most of us) is taken for granted day after day.

In short, if we can adjust our perspective, even by shifting it just slightly, we can see that there are ‘everyday’ items, experiences and comforts that are – in fact – joyous. We’ve just forgotten how to see and feel joy in the simplest things. The gratitude practice is simply another way to re-connect with our joy.

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