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.

5 Comments

  1. For me, life without prayer and gratitude would be life without air. You write about this being a mindset and a part of your daily life – so true. Thank you for sharing.

    • Yes, Meredith, I agree! Prayer and gratitude are like air. And, especially in the tough times, we need to slow down and breath deeply, filling ourselves with this life giving air.

  2. Lisa, once again wonderful words of wisdom! They serve as a reminder to all of us on the importance of gratitude in one’s life and how that is transformational and yet, so simple. It is so easy to forget this in the crazy schedules and busy lives we live. Thanks for reminding us to take a.little time to make a big difference in our lives and the lives of others! Blessings in YOUR day!

  3. Lisa, great advice. I too try to cultivate these habits and like you say they aren’t easy! But they do make a difference.

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