It’s the month of gratitude and I have a lot to be grateful for. For one, we have so far made it through this pandemic with our sanity intact. Our family has been able to stay healthy both physically and emotionally (although there have certainly been days where I thought the summit was completely out of reach.)
Part of it is shear luck. (There have been some Covid close calls.) Part of it is having an extended family that is cautious yet tight knit enough to celebrate Thanksgiving outside last year (and every other holiday really). Part of it is having access to good medical care, stay at home work options and the ability to homeschool. Still, I sometimes wonder what exactly has kept us going especially on those uphill days.
Of course we have always prepped our backpacks well for life’s mental health ups and downs. We exercise in enjoyable ways, eat nourishing foods, connect with friends and challenge our brains with new words, ideas and experiences. I’ve always heard the saying, “enjoy the little things” and we try to do that too. Although honestly, it can be hard though to find joy in the “little things” especially when the “little things” are happening basically the same way with the same people, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for over a year. In the big hike of life, trail mix gets dull fast.
The Buddhists believe wholeheartedly in enjoying the little things. They believe that you should be able to enjoy washing the dishes by being in the moment. By feeling the warm water on your hands, by smelling the soap, by watching the water cascade down and swirl into the drain. It’s an uphill battle, being grateful for the dishes. I aspire to that but gain nothing by beating myself up for turning on the radio and rushing through it.
I wish I could be more grateful for the dishes. Everyone has heard that we are all supposed to be more grateful because that will make us happier, right? Well, I recently read an article with a woman who was on a journey of trying to be more grateful but actually ended up making herself feel worse. She realized at one point that she had diminished her feelings (and her chronic pain) by constantly telling herself that other people have it much worse than her. So she quit! She quit her gratitude journal and is re-learning how to be grateful without withholding empathy for her own self. Love that!
Sometimes the struggle to “enjoy the moment,” to “be grateful,” or to “radiate positivity” (as so many coffee cups tell us) can actually make us feel worse about ourselves. I think that’s what Thich Nhat Hahn means when he says, “there is no way to happiness-happiness is the way.” The path is the destination.
The more we TRY to be happy, positive, healthy (etc, etc), the more we might actually get in our own way, mix up our own directions. So instead of trying to find the joy in washing dishes, I’ve started with an easier step. I started to look at what I already do that brings me joy. The “little joyful things.” Things that I just did, not because I thought they would make me happier or would increase my gratitude but things that just were FUN, without even trying. (I looked at things that don’t cost money or a ton of time so that doing them isn’t a burden.)
I thought I’d share some of the “little joyful things” with you. Some of the things I have discovered that brought me joy from simply doing them. Here they are:
-Sliding across the studio floor in socks (I’m so glad fall is here so I can do this again)
-Watching the creamer mix into my black tea in weird clouds of yum
-Driving home the long way at night with the windows open (with music if you prefer but I enjoy the quiet)
-Baking fresh granola (OH, THE SMELL!)
-Baking anything if you have time but especially baking a special thing every season
(right now it’s pumpkin muffins)
-Watching a movie, show, video, (whatever) that makes you laugh out loud (it must make you laugh OUT LOUD or it doesn’t count)
-Listening to my favorite song over and over again without guilt (even if you literally listen to it 15 times in the same day)
-Giving hugs, lots and lots of hugs
-And of course doing yoga too :)
My hope is that learning about my journey will lead you down your own trail of joy discovery. I’d love to hear about it. Or feel free to write them on the gratitude wall that is going up at the studio. (Or should we name it the “little joyful things” wall?)
Hopefully concentrating on what you are already doing to bring joy to your life will lead you further up the mountain to a point where you can look out and see the beauty that surrounds you. A point where you can be grateful for the progress you’ve made while still having compassion for the blisters on your feet. A place where you can sit. A place where you can breathe. A place where you can take a moment to enjoy the little things.
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