Without a doubt, the number one way to live a happier life is to practice gratitude. But why is it so important, and if it’s simply ‘appreciating what we have’, then why do so few people do it?
We become so focused on what we want, what we don’t want, and what we haven’t got, that we miss out on everything we do have. For weeks we desire a new item we’ve seen in a shop or online, we save our money or find a way to get it. When we finally get it we feel great, opening the item and enjoying this nice new experience we’ve looked forward to.
Three weeks later, everything is back to normal and we no longer spare a thought for this inanimate object that gave us such delight and pleasure just a few weeks ago.
Over-dramatic? Maybe a little? No, I don’t think so.
What is an easy way to practice gratitude?
When I was around seven years old, I would visit my grandparent’s farm most weekends. The front of the bungalow had a large area with banks and slopes perfect for playing. I remember finding an old bike on the farm and pushing it up the side, carefully balancing it on the top of the slope while getting on and then I would free wheel down the slope and try to go as far as I could without falling off.
After days of repeating this same action for hours upon hours, I got to the stage that I could ride the bike around the side of the bungalow by peddling after the bike slowed down before running out of steam.
I remember constantly thinking about what life would be like once I’d mastered ride that bike. When I woke up, eating breakfast and going to bed, there was nothing else on my mind apart from how my life would finally be perfect the moment I could ride a bike.
I don’t think I have ever woke up since that time and thought ‘yes, I am so happy, and my life is brilliant because I can ride a bike.’ Of course, I couldn’t ride a bike now if I tried because of my disability. However, the point is that so often we believe happiness is just around the corner.
So, is happiness as simple as a state of mind?
I first attempted meditation in my late 20s, thinking it would be a cool thing to do. I even thought it might get me a love interest being ‘cool and all that!’
The lotus position of sitting cross-legged and upright on a cushion was out of the question for me due to being paralysed. Insert link. So I would sit in a quiet place and attempt ‘meditation’ which lasted approximately two minutes.
My thoughts kept coming thick and fast and there was no chance I could sit without thinking for two minutes. I wanted peace, tranquility and blissful escapism. Come on; it cannot be that hard to sit and do nothing.
Dammit. Not only did my thoughts continue I swear they got louder and more frequent. I had to find an easier way, lucky I did.
Mindfulness seems to be the latest buzzword, but what is mindfulness? Is it really so powerful it can help with depression, anxiety and even improve your health with just a few minutes a day? According to Google mindfulness is ‘a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and
May 2014, I believed the only way I could escape my thoughts and painful feelings would be to completely shutdown and block all my feelings. A breakdown was on the cards and I believed I deserved it. After all, other people have breakdowns for a lot less than what I’m coping with. Why not me? I wanted a break. But I kept going. (I had recently become single which I wrote about in this blog, How I Learned to Forgive.)
It was a tough time. Very painful, possibly the hardest time of my life. It does show how much emotional pain hurts when even breaking my neck doesn’t compare.
At some point during that month I made a conscious decision to change. I was no longer going to be controlled by a constant stream of damaging and random thoughts running through my head. I couldn’t think straight let alone have the ability to accomplish anything beyond the normal daily chores.
In my mid-20s, I made a feeble attempt at meditating after hearing that 30 minutes of meditation provided the equivalent of nine hours of sleep, so being someone that liked to burn the candle at both ends, I thought a 30-minute meditation would be perfect for me. I also thought it was just a `cool’