THE PATHWAY TO JOY

I learned a number of lessons after recovering from depression 11 years ago. When I came out of that devastating illness, I vowed to do everything in my power to never allow depression to take hold of me again. I committed myself to embracing life and health with every cell of my being. It was then that certain wellness principles took on a life and death importance to me.

Surprisingly enigmatic; they are simple yet profound, commonplace yet difficult to master.  They incorporate the whole self: the mind, body, and spirit. In short, they are principles and practices that help me stay balanced. Making them a part of my everyday life not only keeps me “on top of my game”, it helps me be who God intended me to be. I plan to write about a number of these lessons in this blog. But if I had to pick my most central recovery lesson it would be this: the pathway to joy is gratitude.

Joy emerges when gratitude is practiced. Gratitude is not something I simply have or don’t have – it is a mindset I cultivate. When thoughts of entitlement or resentment creep in, I chase them away with gratitude. “I deserve greater success, or more money, or more acceptance by others” is replaced with “I am grateful for a meaningful job, my physical needs being met, and the connections of friends and family.”

Gratitude (mind) can be approached with the discipline similar to that of exercise (body) or prayer (spirit). With consistent vigorous exercise, you become physically strong and the results are broadly experienced in all aspects of your body. A new lifestyle takes shape; a healthier, more balanced and integrated you emerges.

Or, consider prayer. Through the discipline of praying frequently and in all circumstances, eventually a transformation happens: one’s life becomes a prayer. Prayer is no longer a garment to be put on when the weather requires it. Somehow it morphs into a second skin – inseparable from the self, providing a layer of being that brings acceptance and meaning to all of life’s experiences.

In a similar way, maintaining a grateful heart and honoring oneself can be transformational. How can gratitude be practiced? Here is a simple daily meditation to get you started:

Each day, complete this gratitude / honor exercise: write down three things you are grateful for, and three things you honor yourself for:

I am grateful for …

I am grateful for …

I am grateful for …

 

I honor myself for  …

I honor myself for …

I honor myself for …

Through this simple practice, you are training your mind to appreciate, and to recognize the things that you deserve to honor yourself for. It doesn’t matter how great or small the items are, simply that you consistently and genuinely strive for gratitude and honoring of yourself in all circumstances.

Eventually, you may find, as I have, that you will not limit yourself to this short list of things to be grateful for, or to honor yourself for.  A mindset of gratitude and honoring will take over, and joy will be the result. And this, I know to be true: the pathway to joy, is gratitude.

22. April 2013 · 12 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

 

I love to read. Since about age five or six, it has been one of the great pleasures of my life. When I read, I traverse the world and skip across time. No place is too remote to explore, no experience is too foreign to undertake, no time is beyond my reach. And the people I get to befriend! They are astonishing. No matter what mood I am in, I can get in a better one by picking up a great book.

In the forty plus years since I discovered this love, reading has provided a wellspring of joy. Doing what brings me joy helps me be well and stay well. Being well and staying well is the subject of this blog. I plan to write each week about one way of being well and staying well. A big part of wellness is to discover what you love, and commit yourself to do what brings you joy. Reading brings me joy.

What better place for a reader than the LA Times Festival of Books? My husband Steve and I have gone every year for the last nine years. It may be our favorite weekend of the year. We just spent two days at the festival (held at USC) and are brimming with excited conversation; discussing challenging ideas, debating everything from secularism to syntax, buying deeply discounted books, and jotting down curious thoughts sparked by the lectures. Each time we go, we realize more fully that we have not even scratched the surface of all there is to explore and enjoy in the world of literature.

We heard intriguing lectures by writers such as Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, and Anna Quindlen. We enjoyed panel discussions on topics such as “The Politics of Poetry,”  “Not Just Writing Good: Writing Well,” and “Fiction: The Social Novel.”  I even got to hear one of my favorite entertainers, Carol Burnett, talk about her recent book Carrie and Me and hear her recount hilarious stories from her years doing her variety show. It brought me back to my girlhood pleasure of laughing at the darkly comic Ed, Mama, and Eunice. And of course, the dopey but shapely “Mrs Sa’wiggens.”

So today ends well. I have joy. I spent time with the one I love, exploring what we both love. And this is just the beginning … of so many more good stories.