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Beginner's Heart

via FaceBook

via FaceBook

It’s true. You can DECIDE to be happy. I promise. And it doesn’t reaallly take a whole lot of effort, despite what cranky people may think…

There’s a (relatively) new field of research, happiness studies. It even has its own refereed journal, the Journal of Happiness Studies (catchy that, isn’t it? 🙂 ). Only in the past couple of decades have we really considered happiness worth academic attention. And really, only in the past scant decade have the results of this research begun to reach the hoi polloi.

via Google

via Google

Today I read a GREAT essay — The Science of Happiness: Why complaining is literally killing you. And it turns out that you can CHANGE your attitude. Actually, it’s pretty simple. You don’t even have to cultivate a sappy Pollyanna affect. Honest.Here’s the secret I discovered (all on my own! sans research study!): buy a small gratitude journal. Small as in — NOT lots of lines per page. Set yourself up for success here, okay? Now: every other night or so — or even just once a week, at first, while you cultivate the habit — write down 5 things you’re grateful for. If you end up coming up w/ more than that (sometimes I have a LOT to be thankful for; sometimes 5 is stretching it!), fine. If not? You’re still learning to focus your monkey mind, as Buddhists call it, on the positive. N.B.: try not to qualify what you’re grateful for I’m grateful that EVEN THOUGH…  These can be verrry small things (actually? those become quite large over the years…): a clear blue sky, a heart on your cappuccino, finding a bright copper penny for good luck.

via flickr.com

via flickr.com

I’ve been doing this (a gratitude journal) for several years now. Used to? I was sporadic, jotting a memory down in my usual journal/ book of lists. 🙂 But my younger son gave me the perfect journal — made from a recycled tire…soo Portland! — and I was on my way.

Now, it’s a rare week I don’t write in my gratitude journal several times. When I’m away (it doesn’t travel w/ me), I return and try to put down all I noted during my absence from home. Since I’ve been gone for a while, and this the month of giving thanks, I thought I’d make a short list to help you see just how easy this is. Here goes, one grateful item for every day of Thanksgiving month, so far:

1. I’m grateful for all the comforting well-wishes I received following my mother-in-law’s death.

2. I’m grateful for my family, who supported me so lovingly during the frenetic activity a funeral entails.

3. I’m grateful for the gorgeous flowers Mom received — she loved them so much, and it was wonderful to have them.

the author's

the author’s

4. I’m grateful all the grandchildren had such different & loving memories of her.

5. I’m grateful I had my grandson to remind me that life goes on…

6. I’m grateful we had extra leg room on the plane returning to my son & DIL’s.

7. I’m grateful I can cook, so I can make food for my very busy son & DIL, in addition to what else I can do.

8. I’m beyond grateful for my grandson’s verbal prowess. (This relates to #9.)

the author's

the author’s

9. I’m grateful my grandson told me I love you, GiGi. A complete sentence! AND a priceless declaration from a (ruthlessly honest) 2-year-old.

10. I’m grateful for thin-sliced organic deli turkey, so I don’t have to have a huge honking sandwich when I just want a small one.

11. I’m grateful for FaceTime, so I can pretend I’m in the room w/ my beloved while traveling.

12. Last, but surely NOT least: I’m grateful for an entire month spent listing all the many things (large and small) I have to be thankful for. And I promise: if you begin to list, at some point you’ll realise: you’re happy. Even in the midst of a funeral, a loss, and grief. Life is, ultimately, pretty darn good.

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