Happiness and Gratitude

Hello and welcome to my new blog! My goal with this blog is to share with you teachings and inspirations that have meant a lot to me. I will write about once a month, with short posts meant to give you moments of joy and reflection, and practices that you might experiment with in your own life.  

We are living in a turbulent and divided time, and it is sometimes difficult to know what it means to be happy at a time like this. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, or someone near you has, that too creates a big challenge to happiness. Is happiness possible in times like these? Is it meaningful? Can it be lasting? 

My take on that question is that not only is it possible to cultivate our happiness in any circumstance, but that it may be the best way to heal ourselves and the world immediately around us. If we have our connection to our inner joy, we are in a healing mind state. We are then free to share it with others, and will generally do that unwittingly. Imagine how powerful it would be if all we shared with everyone we interacted with was a smile and a moment of kindness.

How do we cultivate this happiness? We start with gratitude as the foundation. In a wonderful TED talk, David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk and interfaith scholar, explains that the key to happiness is gratitude, and it brings us to a sense of “enough” rather than scarcity. You might think that being happy is what makes you grateful, but it is actually the other way around: it is gratitude that makes you happy.  Moreover, we can all cultivate gratitude not as something that occurs every once in a while, but as a way of life. We cultivate grateful living, moment by moment, even when we are confronted with something difficult. 

Last November, for example, I was pretty low on happiness and pretty high on stress with the state of the world. I had a hard time keeping my positivity. So on Thanksgiving, I sat and wrote down things that I was grateful for. About 8 pages of my journal later, I was astounded at the many people and gifts I could still readily name and feel blessed for. This in turn made a lot of the external stress fall into the background; while the world still felt troubled, I regained my own grounding in gratitude that allowed me to move forward in a happy way, and with compassion toward others as well. 

Here's a short gratitude practice I would like to offer to you.

Take a notebook or just a piece of paper right now, and write down one thing or person that you are grateful for this moment. How about two or three? Don't think too hard about this - write down anything, big or small, that comes to your mind, and in that order.  

Now, commit to doing this practice daily for one week. At some point early each day, give yourself a few minutes to write down your three gratitudes. Doesn't matter if some of them repeat from the previous day. After a week, review what you have written. Finally, see if you might not like to continue doing this every day for a whole month. Watch how this short practice starts to change your day.  

Listen to the full and wonderful TED talk: Want to be Happy? Be Grateful.   

Be well and be happy, 
Irina from Yoga Beyond Cancer

Irina Telyukova