Posts by Saddhamala

Is there a link between gratitude and happiness?

Woman showing gratitude with a gesture of prayer

Research suggests that people who feel gratitude benefit in the following ways. They’re:

1. happier
2. less depressed
3. less stressed
4. more satisfied with their lives and social relationships
5. aware of their purpose in life
6. self confident
7. positive
8. able to cope with the difficulties in positive ways
9. more likely to seek support from other people, and
10. able to learn and grow from their experiences.

It has been said that gratitude is strongly linked with mental health. Several times in my life I have kept a gratitude journal, in which I have written about five things I was grateful for each day. I kept this journal on my computer in the form of writing an email to a friend each evening with my list of things I was grateful for. Many times I felt grateful for more than five things.

It is so easy to focus on circumstances or people whom we are disappointed in. Continually thinking about negative people and situations results in feeling depressed, angry, annoyed, irritable, and generally cranky. We talk to our friends looking for justification for feeling this negativity which just makes us feel worse.

The habit of writing in a gratitude journal each evening is a way of focusing our attention on what is positive in our lives. It also helps us to look for things to be grateful for during the day. Gratitude enters our consciousness and directs our minds towards positivity.

Some of the items in my gratitude journal are: healthy children, dear friends, a sweet cottage to live in, the pond by my cottage, freedom to explore creativity, work that I have enjoyed or not enjoyed but learned from, finding spiritual practice that inspires me, appreciation for beauty in nature and in people, a sense of aesthetics, enjoying simple pleasures, simplifying my life, taking time to really listen to people, cooking for myself and my friends, good movies, good popcorn to munch while I watch the good movies, instances which have been very difficult that have taught me about myself, kayaking, dancing, sunsets, small acts of kindness, strolling through museums, looking at a photograph of the Dalai Lama, availability of books, the ocean, pristine snow covered woods, giving and receiving gifts and especially gifts from the heart, observed acts of generosity and kindness.

Remembering all these things lifts my heart. It is easy to understand how gratitude is responsible for the positive and healthy characteristics of people who feel it. We spend so much time looking for things to make ourselves happy – and all we really have to do is appreciate what is all around us each and every day.

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Four life lessons that bring happiness

Four cups of coffee

We all want to be happy. Book stores have aisles and aisles of self-help books, many of which include chapters on how to be happy.

Here is a list of four lessons I have learned that bring happiness:

1. Assume the best.

Recently I had a difference of opinion with a friend and was concerned that she would tell mutual friends that she was wronged by me. I was feeling defensive, but the truth was I did not know whether she had said anything to anyone about the disagreement. When I assumed the best, that she kept our interaction confidential, I felt at ease and open-hearted to her and my other friends.

2. Seek first to understand others, then seek to be understood.

When two people see things differently, both people often feel compelled to tell the other person their side so that the person will agree with them. So, what you have, is a situation where both people want to get their point across first. This can often result in one person speaking and the other person not listening and not hearing. When we first seek to understand the other person, we are open to hearing their point of view, we may learn something, we may agree, or we may disagree, but at least we listened to another point of view.

3. When people are angry, they may also feel hurt.

Recently a friend of mine lashed out at me saying, “I am angry. I do not care about my harsh language, I am mad.” She was indeed angry, but as we talked about the situation, she softened and was open to hearing that I cared about her welfare. She felt hurt by a decision that was made and felt left out. When she was yelling at me I did not feel open to hearing what she had to say. When she talked about feeling hurt, I felt open-hearted and sorry she was hurt, and so we were able to resolve what happened.

4. When two people are angry, they may both have the same feelings about what transpired.

When I have talked with people after a disagreement, and we both share our feelings, it always amazes me that we both share the same feelings. When your children are arguing, ask them what they are feeling and you will most likely find they have the same feelings. When they realize this, they will feel better toward each other.

What are some of your life lessons?

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Meditation upon arising

Dawn, with the view separated into a black foreground and a graduated dark orange sky

Our minds are very busy and often seem to have a “mind” of their own. If you have meditated, you are aware of how busy the mind can be.

We sit down to meditate and attempt to quiet the mind. We focus on our breathing and try to make the breath the focus of our concentration. Did I say “concentration”? When we are quiet, sitting in meditation rather than doing what we usually do, we realize how difficult quieting the mind can be.

We start thinking about the myriad of things we have to do, a comment someone made, an action someone took, a worry, a story line, what the weather will be like, what time it is, what to cook for dinner, what we need to do at work, what we will do for the weekend — the list goes on and on.

So, upon rising, when you are most rested (if you have had a good night’s sleep), before you get out of bed, quietly tune in to the mind. Listen to what your mind is telling you. Is your mind filled with the dream you had just before waking? What is the feeling tone of your thoughts? Are you geared up for the day with a list of things to do?

Whatever is on your mind, begin your day with an intention to be mindful, to pay attention to one thing at a time, one task at a time. Take a few deep breaths and remember that no matter what you are doing, no matter where you are, you can breathe and quiet your mind for a moment.

Each time you do this, you are training your mind to be still, and with practice, those still moments make a big difference.

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