Gratitude: A Recipe for Joy

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Guest Post by Kathy Neumann

Do you want a more joy filled life?  There are some things we can do to live life more joyfully and abundantly.  We can cultivate the practice of gratitude, be thankful for the simple ordinary moments, live in the moment, and let go of the fears that rob us of joy.  There is a strong relationship between gratitude and joy.  Have you noticed how grateful people are joyful people?  Look at the sisters here at St. Anne’s – thankful and joyful.

Practicing the attitude of gratitude is very important to having joy, says Brené Brown in her book: The Gifts of Imperfection.  Some ways of practicing gratitude are keeping a gratitude journal (or keeping a gratitude-note jar), doing a daily meditation/prayer on gratitude, and reminding yourself daily of the blessings in your life.  Pay attention and notice the good things that we often take for granted.  When we’re having a busy, stressful, or bad day, stop and say out loud, “I am grateful for __________”

Joy often comes in simple ordinary moments, not extraordinary moments.  Our most precious memories are ordinary moments.  When my daughter was away at college, she once said, “Mom, it’s not the big events, it’s the little everyday things that I miss most.”  It was sitting down to a bowl of homemade soup with family, taking a walk with us, playing with the dog she missed.  Consciously enjoying the simple, ordinary small things and moments in life and gratefully acknowledging this is what life is about.  Our culture dismisses the quiet, ordinary, hardworking men and women.  We equate ordinary with boring or meaningless.  People who have had tremendous loss, for example; the loss of a child, violence, trauma, hold on to the sacred, ordinary, everyday moments to find their joy again.  Live in the moment and be grateful for what is right in front of you.

So what gets in the way of joy? Fear and worrying.  Fear of hard times or losing what we love most.  Fear that something terrible will happen.   Fear or uncertainty of not having enough: time, food, money.  Marianne Willamson said, “Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”  When you’re feeling fearful or that you don’t have enough, or aren’t enough, try acknowledging the fear and practice gratitude.  Say out loud, “I’m feeling vulnerable; it’s ok, I’m grateful for _____”   Living in gratitude doesn’t mean denying the sorrows that come but remembering to notice the good around you and balance those hard times with gratitude.

Say thank you to God and to others frequently during the day, and ask God to help you remember to be grateful.  Listen to or read the lyrics to “What a Wonderful World.”  Trees, flowers, birds, seasons, sunshine; our world is pure gift. Thank God even for the “darkness” for it, too, teaches us great lessons and builds character.