People over 100 years old were asked in a world-wide study, what were their secrets of longevity. Their answers were curious. Some ate bacon, some were vegetarians, some smoked, some didn’t; some exercised, some didn’t. About the only thing they had in common was that they all said they were happy. I’m not saying smoking or not exercising are healthy things to do, but it seems that our bodies do thrive on happiness.
However, being happy and seeking happiness are two very different things.
If we seek happiness, we must first believe that happiness is currently absent and, therefore, must be found elsewhere. So we go in search of an experience, or relationship, or a substance that we believe will induce happiness. Of course, being dependent on outside circumstances going our way leaves us vulnerable to the unpredictability of life. And even if we find something that brings us joy, that joy seems to have a shelf life and loses its potency over time.
Seeking happiness is, by definition, future based. “If it’s not here now, then I must do something to get it which will take time.” If we seek happiness, we are obligated to seek it in the future, which is characterized by its tendency never to arrive.
So what to do?
How about just being grateful now? One of the delightfully simple things about being grateful is that you can only do it in the present moment. Waiting to be grateful is to be ungrateful now. Gratitude is also unconditional. You can’t be grudgingly grateful. Gratitude is binary: either you are or you are not. Right now. Being grateful is coming into alignment with Life. The power of acknowledging gratitude for something – anything – is that it can only happen now and it can only happen without reservation.
If gratitude is new to us, we can practice on small things at first. We can be grateful that is a beautiful clear Thanksgiving Day. We can be grateful for a friend or family member who we will see today. And then, perhaps with some practice, we can see that we are even grateful for that friend or family member who we don’t entirely agree with. And maybe, with time perhaps, we can see our way clear to express gratitude for everything that’s ever happened to us. Everything.
I’m not suggesting that you try to delude yourself into believing something that doesn’t ring true for you. Rather, from a different perspective, we can see that the difficult boss, the ex-lover, and the challenging parent have all contributed to our deeper understanding of, and compassion for, the human condition. We can see that it was all a learning opportunity. And the deeper lessons were generally the hardest ones to go through. We can be grateful for those. Especially those.
It is easy to be grateful for the pleasant things, but it is transformative to recognize true gratitude for the difficult things that are an inevitable part of Life too.
I wish you Joy and Peace and a sense of Gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day.