Contemplation, Gratitude and Journals

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Even Happier QuestDo you believe in a higher power? Fate, karma, God, Buddha, luck, and others depending on your culture and beliefs. I don’t usually talk about this topic at AFQ but today is the first Monday in August which means a new task for the Happiness Project. August has an interesting perspective – Contemplate a Higher Power.

The book explains that studies show that people who are more spiritual are happier in general than those that are not. Gratitude, mindfulness, service, enthusiasm, humility, selflessness, faith, and kindness are among the virtues emphasized in a spiritual practice. You can be spiritual without being religious so even those that don’t go to church regularly may still find themselves happier with these virtues in their lives.

Actually higher power or not, these are traits that all of us as humans should strive to include in our everyday lives to make us better parents, friends, spouses, neighbors and co-workers. The fact that they also can make us happier is just a bonus on top of that. I gave some thought to what I could do in my focus for August. I decided to start with gratitude since I’m lucky that I have a lot to be thankful for in life.

I think most of us are thankful for the big things that come our way, but the little things often get lost in the details. Those little things pass by without even being noticed but they can add up to a ton of gratitude if we allow them the chance. Have you ever had a bad day and found yourself focusing on every little bad thing that happened? “Work sucked big time, I had car problems, and on top of that I had a bad hair day!” 😉

Instead of focusing on the bad details, try focusing on the good details on a bad day and be grateful that they happened. You have a job, car problems don’t last forever, and even a bad hair day can be laughed at. The Kid and I have a game we play while eating dinner. We each tell the best thing that happened that day and the worst thing. The best thing gets celebrated even if just to say “That’s great!”

The worst thing gets discussed in greater detail to figure out a solution, something to do differently or just to accept that it happened and it’s now done. It’s a pretty cool parenting moment because we get to talk things through. The Kid knows during a bad moment that she’ll have a chance to talk it through each night, which takes some of the pressure off during the moment.

It also gets her in the habit of an open discussion of problems instead of trying to work them out alone. I get to help her with her problems and prepare for the time when the really big problems come up, and I get her perspective on things in my day. I love seeing my day through less jaded younger eyes.

On top of continuing the best thing/worst thing discussion, we’re going to add in one thing that we are grateful for each day. I’m sure some days will be easier to find that gratitude than others, but it will challenge us to find at least one thing every day. Being grateful for something will definitely bring a smile to the day. Some people find it easier to keep a gratitude journal instead.

A gratitude journal can be a place where you write down your most personal things that you’re grateful for. It also is great to look back as a keepsake of the different phases of your life as well as a reminder in harder times just how much you have going for you. You can start your own gratitude journal with a blank book, but they also have special journals just for this purpose. Whatever works for you.

Give the Best, Worst, Grateful Ritual a try and let me know what you think. You can do this with your family and go around the table or even just practice it alone. So tell me in the comments below:

What was the best part of your day?
What was the worst part of your day?
What are you grateful for today?

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