A year of completions.

I have been noticing that this year, some things have been coming rather neatly to a close. Old patterns and events have been coming back to light – for me, and for others. Not to be revisited in a painful way, but to be released.

Old illnesses, fleetingly reappearing and healing.

Past friends and companions, experiencing the shared recognition of a path travelled together for a time, and now on a different lifeline.

Places from the history of our life, acknowledged and released of their emotional charge.

2012 appears to be a year of completions.

And with completion come gratitude (for the lessons learnt), and joy (for the future possibilities).

Or is it that with gratitude (for the lessons learnt) and joy (for the future possibilities) comes completion?

Everything is amazing! Thanksgiving tomorrow :)

Tomorrow’s the 4th Thursday in November, which means it is Thanksgiving Day in the US and Canada.

Photo by JeffK

Studies of all kinds have shown beyond the shadow of a doubt that being grateful contributes to leading a happy, healthy, fulfilled life. Often though we forget to notice how cool and wonderful the world is that we live in, we take it for granted and think everything’s completely normal, and by doing that we allow a little bit of its magic to disappear. This video made me smile and also hit the spot (I don’t know how to embed it here -yet!- but here’s the link to watch it): it’s a short extract of a TV interview of American comedian Louis CK, about how “everything’s amazing right now, and nobody’s happy”. Do watch it – it’s only just over 4 minutes, and it is funny and very true; he talks a lot about how much easier our life is thanks to technology and how we get really frustrated when it fails (even a bit).

Now I’m not saying that we should all have abysmally low expectations so that everything that happens in our life is a beautiful miracle. That would just be too depressing! Instead it’s about having a sense of perspective. When we get stressed and gripe about technology, people, the weather, whatever,… that’s a good time to stop and count our blessings.

Photo by BLW Photography

Corny huh?

Not that much, really. You focus on the negatives, and you attract/notice more of what you focus on. The more grumpy you get, and the more you notice other things that make you even more grumpy. It becomes self-perpetuating until you remember to snap out of it, find something to smile about, and deliberately and consciously turn your outlook around. Because, c’mon, everything is amazing when you think about it!

So how do you start a gratitude habit?

You could have a reminder in a place where you often get stressed (a post-it to “be grateful” on your steering-wheel or on your laptop?). You could keep a gratitude journal – at the end of each day, find three (or one, or four, whatever works for you) things to be grateful for. There is even an iPhone app to help you do this. (I don’t have an iPhone; the app looks cute though. And it’s got a sister app to do a vision board! Now that’s cool :).)

Mine for today are:
– my friend Dave helped me get the bottom bracket changed on my bike this afternoon (it’s been a long-standing issue that’s just been getting worse and worse, I’m so glad it’s sorted now!). It’s nice to be able to rely on friends for help, who’ll give up some of their time and expertise, just ’cause it’s you, no strings attached. Cheers, guys.
– the people who I am buying a present for my mum from (I can’t say what it is in case she’s reading this! Shhh!) are really friendly and responsive and it’s a pleasure dealing with them. (Fantastic customer service: everyone should do it all the time. They don’t, so I am particularly pleased when people do. I hope I would still be grateful if everyone did do it all the time!)
– my cat came to greet me when I got home and just now she jumped up on the desk just to rub her forehead on my chin, then wandered off again. I know she does this pretty much every day. Still, it never ceases to delight me.

And it you want to kickstart yourself into a gratitude state of mind, spend an hour writing your acknowledgements page for the book you will one day publish, for the CD cover you will one day release, or your acceptance speech for the Oscar you will one day receive. (Remember to thank your mum, your dad, your agents, everyone who helped you, and even cry a bit. :-p) It’s not my idea, it’s Gretchen Rubin’s – author of The Happiness Project. Check it out, she’s really inspirational. And we’ll be using her Happiness Project Toolbox to start off the very first Cardiff Happiness Group next week! Email me to get involved.

I’m not going to write my book acknowledgements quite yet. Right now, it’s bath (oh yes, I’m grateful that the boiler is fixed after 5 days with no heat last week, thank goodness for electric showers!), and bed (gratitude for… a bed being a bed. Hmmm. Comfy.) The cat’s turned up again with her cottonwool brain and heart-shaped patch on her nose.

What’s not to be grateful for? Happy Thanksgiving – wherever you are, whatever the date. 🙂


Things I own that make me happy

I was pondering on the cycle home today – there are things I own that I am very glad that I own. I guess that makes me materialistic… Maybe a bit. They make me smile or make my life more joyful in some way. I have painted wooden eggs for the light pulls in the bathroom. I have a bamboo towel that is fluffy and a funky shade of green and SO soft. I have a pair of purple high heel shoes even though I don’t own any purple clothes, and I feel like a diva when I wear them. I have a stamp carved out of wood in the shape of an Indian (henna-style) flower. I can’t say that any of the above are indispensable. I could dry myself just as well with a cotton towel. (Weeeeeell… my new towel *is* very absorbent though! ;-p) Most of them I shelled out for, more than I would normally want to spend – except in all these cases, I did it gladly because they would make me a little bit happier in little daily ways. Aaaah! I can only conclude that things make me happy!

Hmmm. Some things do. I don’t wish to live an austere monastic life – I don’t believe in deprivation, it doesn’t make me a better person! On the other hand, I don’t value those objects because of what they cost, but because of how I feel when I use them. Actually, I also want to retract the “things make me happy” statement – I choose to be happy, things don’t have that power. So… I choose to be happy when I use my new towel because I enjoy the feel of it and because I am happy that I love myself enough to have treated myself to it.

That’s a bit more accurate – also probably waaaay overanalysed. I know, I know – I have a tendency to do that. It’s interesting though isn’t it? I could go on about how I define myself (I want to be a non materialistic person because I define it as “bad” in my head!) and about attaching value to things we pay for. Food for thought on another cycle ride I think! Right now I’m going to go to my Nia dance class.