The Living Within series is about moving away from extremes toward eating and living from and for a place of joy.
So far in this series I’ve talked about my intention to move away from extremes toward joy in eating and living, about how paying attention to our own thoughts matters, explored how food isn’t just fuel, and moving away from shame and leaning into joy.
Okay then, now what? Well, now it’s time to dive into the good stuff.
The how-to-actually-lean-into-joy stuff.
And after reflecting upon this “how-to” problem and doing a little research I’ve landed on the perfect place to start.
Let’s start with gratitude.
Because, it seems, gratitude is foundational to joy. Okay, good. I can do gratitude.
The only issue now is figuring out how to actually incorporate it into my life.
I know gratitude journaling is popular. Wake up and spend the first 5 minutes of your day writing down or focusing on what you’re grateful for, and then journal again at the end of the day.
The problem with this practice for me is that I just haven’t found a way to make it work in real life.
Because my mornings usually start with a child in my face.
A fact that I love, but one that deters me from the serene practice of reflective gratitude.
Shortly after this early-morning wakeup call, we all transition into a rushed, chaotic, love-filled mess of a morning. And needless to say, my goal at the end of the day is simply to get my face washed and teeth brushed before collapsing into bed.
Gratitude journaling, then, has always been one of those things I know I should do, but have never actually done.
I’ll admit, too, that the idea of practicing gratitude has been a bit overwhelming.
I feel like I need sit, and wonder, and be profoundly moved by all the good things in my life. It just seems intimidating. So I’ve never found a consistent way to incorporate it into my life.
But if gratitude brings joy? Well, then, it’s time to figure this out.
So here’s what I decided to do.
Instead of finding a specific chunk of time to set aside, I decided to simply look for gratitude in the little in-between moments.
Like walking to a meeting. Or waiting in the car to pick up my girl. When on conference calls. Or loading the dishwasher. In between answering emails. During bathtime. In between bites. When crawling into to bed.
And when I started looking for the in-between moments I started finding them all around.
I also decided to take the pressure off.
Gratitude, I’ve been telling myself, doesn't always have to be about the big things.
It can be about the mundane details of life. The everyday moments and experiences that slip into the background when we’re not paying attention.
Like avocados. And sunlight streaming through the window. Rain washing the sidewalks clean. Toilets that flush. Giant blooming magnolia trees. The smell of my girl’s hair after a bath. Fresh, clean water. A kind comment. Coffee. A cozy bed. Strawberries. Yoga pants. The sound of my girl’s voice.
And I’m just getting started.
During all those little in-between moments I’ve been challenging myself to think of five grateful things.
The smaller the better.
I’ve found that if I get stuck it helps to think about the four senses. The sight of a sunbeam through a window. The smell of a favorite candle. The feel of a soft blanket. The sound of rain on the roof at night.
And guess what? The more I practice, the easier it gets.
Can you guess what happens after a little time practicing this kind of mundane gratitude?
That’s right. It becomes magical.
Because at the end of the day, when you think back, something shifts. Instead of remembering the negatives, the challenges, or monotony of the everyday, you start to remember all those small little things.
The cumulation of the avocado and the magnolias and the comfortable chair and the cozy blanket and little girl smell starts to build into one giant magical wave of gratitude.
Of course, it’s not like focusing on these little things through the days means that there aren’t bad days, or frustrations or overwhelm. Not at all.
It’s just that now there can be both gratitude and all those those other things.
Frustrated and grateful. Or scared and grateful. Or overwhelmed and grateful.
The great part is that you can be all the things, feel all the feels and still be grateful at the same time.
It’s really these tiny moments of gratitude amidst the mess, the chaos, the pain, and the fear that really is magical.
And this magic? It starts to resonate and reverberate and gather and attract joy.
Which, of course, is where we are going with all of this.
Somedays this is definitely an uphill battle, and many days I wake up thinking about how exhausted I am rather than immediately thinking of 5 tiny moments of gratitude.
But it’s getting easier.
My intention is to keep practicing.
Maybe you’ll join me?
You can start right now. Think of 5 things. Then find a few little moments for the rest of the day to think of a few more. Then do it again tomorrow. And the day after that.
See what happens. Let me know how it goes, if you like.
Sending you all light and all kinds of gratitude.
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Read the Living Within series from the beginning:
Part II: On Starting: Thinking About Thinking
Part III: Why Food Isn’t Just Fuel