There is a way to increase from 10 to 25% of your happiness right away, and this is… for free: Practice deep gratitude!
An addicted society
Do you have enough today? You might say no. How come that my neighbor has a bigger house? My colleague has that promotion? My cousin travel to Asia twice this year? I need more clothes, more shoes, a more modern phone, nicer car…
Since time immemorial, human beings are in need of more. But more than ever, we live in such a consumerist and material world. Anne Wilson Schaef called ours an “addicted society” (” When Society Becomes An Addict”). We constantly try to fill the emptiness with more consumption and materials.
We need higher and higher doses to feel more joy and happiness! We feel burned out, stressed, and unhappy in many situations, while causing impacts on nature. How to overcome this?
Gratitude increases 10% of happiness and reduce 35% of depressive symptoms
How to overcome the feeling of “needing more”? How to be (more profoundly) happy with less?
The answer is: Practice deep gratitude!
If you regularly take time to notice and be thankful for what you receive in life, you will feel more joy, and sleep better. You can express more compassion and kindness towards others, and… consume less! A research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons shows that gratitude significantly increases well-being and life satisfaction.
So, ready to try?
4 ways to practice deep gratitude today
‘Drink a cloud’ – Gratitude with mindful eating
Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book “The Art of Mindful Living”, spends one full page to talk about “drinking a cloud”. When we drink a cup of tea and see deeply in it, we can see that each drop comes from a cloud. We also see the tea leaves come from a field immerged with sun in a faraway country. Dink a cup of tea as if you drink a cloud.
My children and I went to a retreat with Plum Village last year. During the retreat, we practiced eating mindfully. At the beginning of each meal, a child reads this out loud: “This food is the gift from the entire universe: the earth, the sky, incalculable living beings, and the fruit of hard work”.
It is really true, and takes a few seconds to cultivate our gratitude!
Action: When you drink a tea today, take a moment to imagine the journey of these drops of water and the leaves of tea. The sun, the rain, and hard work in them until arriving at you. Fill yourself with gratitude and joy.
Gratitude for life’s ‘10,000 sorrows’
It’s easier for us to feel grateful for things that make us happy. But how about sorrows?
Jack Kornfield, on one of the interviews with Greater Good Magazine, shared a story of a father whose children were drug addicts. In a desperate situation, he was able to find gratitude even of this fact. “He was grateful for the depths of compassion that had grown when he learned about the waves of addiction that were prevalent in the country”. He could, thanks to it, have the strength to move on.
When we learn how to be grateful for the difficulties, we can learn from them and overcome them with more resilience.
Action: When you encounter a challenge today, for example, being stuck in traffic, take a deep breath. Imagine how grateful you can be in this even situation, where you have a car to drive and are still safe behind the wheel. Know that this unwanted event could have possibly prevented another even worse to happen.
‘We are woven’ – Gratitude from inter-being
How to be grateful deeply towards others? By knowing that we all depend on each other. “We are woven”, said Dr. Martin Luther King.
One day, when I practice mindful breathing, I was suddenly aware that the air coming from a tree, finally become my body, part of my cell. That was a true revelation.
I believe that when all human beings take the time to breathe mindfully, we will realize that everything is interdependent. We depend on the air we breathe, on plants and minerals, and on people in other nations, as they depend on us.
For the countless things you do today, feel grateful. Whether it’s eating a fruit, writing on a book, drinking water… Hard work of others and nature have brought them to you. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny”.
Action: When you eat a fruit, be conscious of how this fruit will become part of your body and cells. Feel the oneness with nature and feel grateful to be in the place you are. When driving on the road, be grateful for the human beings who built it for you to run on today.
Beginner’s mind – How mindfulness helps with gratitude
A beginner’s mind is the mind of a child, which is “empty of any concept, any expectation, any formatting” (Kusen, Kanshoji). There is no anger, worries, or stress… It’s the “original mind”.
With this “pure” mind, we are more open to notice and recognize what others bring to us. We have more compassion and can receive with gratitude. “
Practicing mindfulness helps “sweep the dust from the mirrors, where the mirror is the truth, and dust is the millions and trillions of thoughts that stop us to see beyond ’em” (The zen universe).
Action: Take 10 min to meditate today. Empty your mind of wandering thoughts. Observe your emotions, anger, sadness. Feel how relaxed and quiet you are after. Observe how you are more open to notice the kindness of others. You feel grateful when your mind is calm.
We live in an addicted society, where we need always more to be satisfied. We feel burned out, stressed, and unhappy in many situations.
Practice today deep gratitude. Profoundly transform the way we cultivate joy and happiness. Help enable peace, and protect our nature.
Mindful eating, being grateful equally for joys and sorrows, revealed yourself the gratitude of inter-being, and return to the original mind. These are 4 ways I hope you will join me to start today.