James Baraz, a teacher of mindfulness since the 1970s and author of Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness, tells the story of going to stay with his 91-year-old Jewish mother when his sister was away on a trip. In her characteristic Jewish-mother way, she complained about everything. Growing tired of her constant complaining, he suggested a game of following every complaint with, “And I know I am truly blessed.” His mother told the story herself to a group he was teaching (you can watch it here), and in her hilarious way described how, “By golly, it worked! “I really have become…oh, this kills me…I really have become a happier person…He has ruined my entire life.”
You can make this a practice in your life, too, by noticing when you are in complaint, and shifting the negative thought or comment to one of gratitude. Notice how it affects your perceptions and relationships.
Many more effective practices are offered in James Baraz’ books, Awakening Joy and Awakening Joy for Kids, to cultivate behaviors and attitudes that bring well-being into your life. They are valuable resources for creating a happier and more meaningful life.
Research shows that gratitude is central to a happy and joyful life, and it is one of the “core themes” featured on the Greater Good Science Center website. There are links to the What, Why and How To of gratitude, as well as many wonderful articles on this quality-of-life-enhancing skill that anyone can develop. You can also find links to extensive research, practices to cultivate gratitude, and a radio special hosted by Susan Sarandon called The Science of Gratitude.
What will you do today to awaken joy and happiness in your life?
To what one breath can do,