Happiness & Gratitude

If you’re looking to boost your personal happiness by 40 percent, this series of posts, taken from tips researched at UC Berkeley, just might do the trick. I’m only on #4, gratitude, but have already noticed a general uptick in my mood. Gratitude is a habit that can only help. Begin every day with a big thank you list, maybe even before you open your eyes. I’ve been taking note of gratitude for many years, and one thing I’ve figured out is that the less happy you feel on any particular day, the more you need to find something to be grateful for.

What we are grateful for is such an individual thing, so personal, But it’s universal, too. We in the USA have a couple of precious things to be grateful for this week. Our courts have saved Obamacare (again) and made marriage legal for everybody. Decent health coverage and the right to love. Most of us are grateful our corner of the world is changing in positive ways.

So thanks America, because frankly, I have not been feeling super-grateful these days. It’s been tough going with the knee and the shingles and the pain and the crutches. Yet somehow gratitude wedged in to every corner of my despair, making space for happy. Maybe because I have permission to walk in the world again (without crutches) come July 1. That’s only a couple of days from now. Then a few days after that my Seattle family is coming to visit. See heart overflow with gratitude like a geyser.

The highly individual thing I’m really grateful for this week is the current book-in-progress. I wasn’t sure until yesterday I could manage what I wanted to do. Change setting. Change genre. Change tone. Change a character who has been with me for a few books now. Huge ask but I wanted to do it, really had that on fire desire to create this new thing that has been in my head for over a year now, have been aching to start the new story but the thing was just not flowing.

The problem was Paxton, an important character who would not let me in. Not even an inch. I thought, I stewed, I brainstormed. I simmered, I researched, I assembled a collage. Finally got a big hit of that feeling I’m chasing. The collage is pretty. I can’t stop looking at it. It makes me feel so good and this is even before words:) Somehow pictures help me draw out the words. It’s a mysterious process. I look through dozens of magazines and tear out imagines that call my name. I don’t know why a watch from Shinola called my name, but it did and into the stack of images it went.

I’m so grateful to that collage because yesterday I wrote pages and pages and felt that on fire inspired feeling that is the true reason I write. For me, it’s all in the process. Cracking Paxton’s code. Now I think I can write this book. Another good feeling. Happy, part four.

The fifth happiness booster on the list is Keep Friends Close which has not been a thing I’ve been doing lately. When I’m in pain, I isolate. So…the pain is leaving (thanks and goodbye!) and the peeps are gonna be hearing from me in the next couple of weeks. A lot.

Good Things

IMG_0902One of the perks about getting older for me has been the soundtrack in my head. There’s a lot of good music in there. Like a Paul Revere and the Raiders song from 1967 floating through my head for the last week or so. I have so much good in my life right now. A fews days ago all the lights dimmed, but if you cultivate gratitude, joy follows.

Every day, even on bad days, I find so much to be grateful for–mostly the people in my life, the ones I love. I have a really nice house and many material things, but I’m just grateful for a roof. I’ve had nice houses before. Possessions do not bring me joy. Well, yoga pants and fuzzy socks, but it’s the comfort factor. When my body feels happy, I feel happy in my head, too.

Among other nuggets from the Bard, I shared Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy “The Seven Ages of Man” with my students. It’s a set piece in my favorite play As You Like It that starts out “All the world’s a stage/And all the men and women merely players/They have their exits and their entrances…” When I started reading, I said “Everyone’s heard this, right?” I’m thinking it right now. You know this one, right? Or no? Most students had never heard of it.

I remember the first time I read certain stories and poems, and many other special “firsts” — that magic of learning a new thing. Like the power of gratitude. I started practicing daily gratitude 15 or so years ago. Some days it is really hard to drum up one little bitty piece of it. “Grateful to be here now, with the time and mental focus to know it” is a fallback for anyone who just can’t think of one good thing that happened to them that day, or one good consistent thing in their lives. I have other ones I say every day: “I’m grateful for my family.” And “I’m grateful for my true love.”

Good things bring the joy, and one of those good things is coming up: the weekend! As Paul says, “It’s a groovy world.” So, dance if at all possible. Maybe to this: