Browsing Tag

gratitude

Project Happy Day Moment: 12 years

A dozen years. Yes, it’s been that long. My social media project on my Facebook page began April 1, 2010. Yes, except for December 2020 during my hospital stay, I posted a Happy Day Moment consecutively for twelve years. Yes, discovering and recording a “moment” each day reminded me to be grateful. {Yes, you can applaud/throw confetti/send chocolates and/or vacation packages …. 😊}

My goal for this project was to make myself focus on some “moment” during each day where I could be positive, thankful, and “happy” that I was alive. To slow down. Just for a bit. And be grateful. With so many Facebook posts that were negative, complaining, even whining, I was determined to use my status as a more positive platform.

Throughout these postings, I’ve experienced days with moments of love, joy, celebration, laughter, happiness – unexpected moments. But I’ve also had some days that were really crummy and achy and some that were soaked in sadness, sickness, grief and disappointments.

In every day, yes, every day, however, I found that “moment” that I could call forth as “happy.”

This experiment has been profound for me. For most of my life I’ve had a glass-half-full attitude, even when a diving accident as a 13-year-old left me a diagnosed quadriplegic. I’ve learned what being grateful can do, embracing each day. Life can be hard. I know.  But every day that I choose to look for the happy, the good, the blessing, the love, the joy – shifts my heart and my head into a better place. A place of gratitude.

Quite simply, it’s become my tool to keep track of the good things in life. No matter how difficult and defeating my day can sometimes feel, there is always a “moment,” something to feel grateful about. We can all be grateful.

While it’s tough to find that “moment,” that “something” to be grateful about during a rough patch, it’s not just another “easy to say, but hard to do” action – it can actually help rescue you during a storm.

Even more than that, regularly finding a “moment” and identifying the good things in your life can help prepare and strengthen you to deal with unexpected heartache and pain.

We all have own challenges and difficult days. Yet, even in my darkest days, my instinct is to feel grateful for the things that I do have and for the things that are going well. I let gratitude be the doorway to hope; once hopeful, I find strength and the will to take one small step that moves me to better and easier times.

It’s God’s way. It’s who we can choose to be. Grateful. In every situation, no matter what the circumstances, be grateful and continually give thanks to God. For this is the will of God.

For in writing good words, for finding “happy” moments and sharing them, I’ve discovered that I’m more thoughtful, more encouraging, more inspired, more aware – of the goodness of life all around me.

I know it’s rather grandiose of me to think that my small little space, my Facebook presence can make a big change in how others think about gratitude, but if I’ve learned anything in the last twelve years, it’s that when it comes to talking about living with gratitude, and about how we use our words – we can’t do it enough.

Every year has its negatives, its disappointments, its regrets, its sorrows, its pains, its losses.

Yet, every year (if you choose to discover) has its positives, its joys, its celebrations, its wins.

Some years have more milestones than others: personal physical mental professional relational emotional financial spiritual. Some years prayers are answered; some years there is more waiting.

This identifying and reporting a Happy Day Moment has become a spiritual practice, a habit…and my super power is believing that we can all find a Happy Day Moment. The daily practice, the discipline, the routine of choosing to look for the positive, being grateful, not always focusing on the negative, has changed me. Forever. Strengthened me to face … anything.

I take note of my gratitude for a moment in the day when things are good, or I feel blessed, or I merely remember that I’m alive. Mostly, the moments are tiny and commonplace, not usually moments of grandeur or enormous successes. They are moments of small human connection, that smile, that morning kiss, or a sudden bit of humor, or a child’s laughter, or the elderly couple holding hands, or the glimpse of a cardinal on a branch, or even a moment of peace during a hectic day.

Throughout these years, however, I’ve noticed that I’m capable of finding happy moments smack in the middle of the tough and painful and hurting and grieving moments. The comfort from a friend when I’m sad can be a happy moment, right in the midst of a very hard time. The kindness of someone bringing a cup of coffee when I’ve had a stressful and exhausting day can be a happy moment. The prayers from those who know my heartache can be a happy moment.

Yes, life is still good and there can still be gratitude, even when difficult stuff happens. This practice doesn’t shield me from the hard times or a denial that dark times will always exist, but acknowledging my “moment” brings me unshakable joy and gratitude for the miracle that is my life.

Becoming aware of a happy day moment takes a personal effort, paying attention to the instances of the blessings of life, shining a spotlight on the small good things.

After years of leaning into gratitude, I know I’ve only scratched the surface of this powerful principle. I realize my pursuit of gratitude isn’t an accident, as much as preparation for what has come my way during these last few years. Preparing to see me through – because when it comes to the struggles of life, we need gratitude to be our companion.

Because this is what happens:

Words of gratitude lift us above circumstance.

Sometimes the wall of difficulties we face appears too tall to scale. But the presence of gratitude lifts and carries us. We become stronger, more agile, infused with what we need, not just to face the barrier, but to search for a way around or over that we hadn’t considered before.

Words of gratitude refocus our attention.

They change our perspective.  We’re never off on the wrong foot when we step out in gratitude. We can’t think negatively when we focus on the positive. We’re less judgmental, resentful, or divisive when we’re thankful for our relationships (especially the complicated ones). Sometimes it’s easy to focus on our hurts or sorrows and miss all of the other places that good things are happening.  It’s possible for good things and hard things to co-exist in our lives. We show wisdom when we can focus on being thankful and noticing the good, instead of concentrating on the bad.

Words of gratitude bring us joy.

Those who live in gratitude have the most joyful lives. It’s impossible to miss the joy when we’re on the lookout for blessings. We won’t miss out on the moments when we’re present and rooted in each one as it comes.

Words are powerful. Even words written in a Facebook post.

Let’s make our words a powerful happy mission.

Let’s unleash the power of gratitude.

Gracious Gratitude

Oh my, these last few years. We’ve all been through it. Can I get an “Amen” that we’ve gotten through it?

So, this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to be getting through, grateful to be here, grateful for God, once again, saving my life following my serious medical issues of last year.

Even with all I’ve been through, all the physical challenges, all the emotional heartaches, I’m still a glass-half-full kind of person, a rah-rah, God-is-Faithful believer. I’ve learned to be a believer in giving thanks in all circumstances, in “natural” gratitude and in “gracious” gratitude.

As a college student with a minor in Humanities, I studied the writings of Jonathan Edwards, regarded as a great theologian and philosopher of British American Puritanism and a forerunner of the Great Awakening. He is best known for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” which he preached in 1741.

But he also wrote a book, The Religious Affections, where he distinguished between “natural” gratitude and “gracious” gratitude. Natural gratitude is an appreciation for good gifts—for things that make us happy, like life, family, employment, leisure, freedom, a warm bed, cold drinks, and sunshine. This kind of thankfulness may be displayed by “natural man,” those Edwards referred to as without God’s redeeming grace.

But gracious gratitude starts from a different place. Instead of beginning with WHAT God gives us, this gratitude begins with WHO God is and thanks Him for His character, goodness, love, and power, regardless of particular favors and enjoyments received. This, Edwards said, is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in a life. As we sit down to a Thanksgiving meal, it is perfectly understandable that we will thank God for all the benefits we enjoy, for all that we find to be favorable. But what are we to do with the disappointments and difficulties, the losses and sorrows of the past twelve months? The past two years? By nature, we may express gratitude for all that is pleasurable. Only by grace may we learn to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

Taking in the good and being grateful is not about always putting a happy shiny face on everything, nor is it about turning away from the hard things in life. It’s about nourishing gratitude — “natural” gratitude and “gracious” gratitude, for WHAT God gives and for WHO God is—refuges to which you can always return.

This year, especially, I’m all about thankfulness and gratefulness and saluting the goodness of God and the goodness of each day.

We can choose to be thankful and grateful, understanding the fragility of life that makes every moment so meaningful. We often waste too many moments immersing ourselves in needless distractions that steal our attention away from the things that actually matter. We should grasp the precious moments of this life and stop being distracted with the things that don’t really matter.

David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, wrote, “The root of joy is gratefulness … It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” And that Bible verse which tells us to be grateful “in all circumstances.”

We decide what to look for and what we see. We decide our focus. It’s about learning, studying the ways of contentment and appreciation. I know that by slowing down, by looking differently, I choose to focus on the light, the positive, the greatness of God, and all the reasons I have to be eternally grateful.

Start to see the good, the happy, even in the small in WHAT God gives. Actively search for those moments, develop a posture of looking for and of finding happy. Cultivate this vision: seeing those moments and being grateful for the happy day moments.

Then remember the grace of WHO God is. His character, His love, His holiness. Understand that every day, He can make a difference; His love makes a difference. That life is a gift. That love is a gift. That each day we awaken and breathe is a gift.

And I will be grateful. With natural gratitude. With gracious gratitude.

Essential to living a life with joy, confidence, faith, and hope is remembering to be grateful.

By understanding that every moment of every day in every life does not have to be happy.

Only ONE moment does. ONE glimpse. ONE second. ONE breath.

And choosing to find it. Choosing to hold onto it. Choosing to claim it to redeem any hard messy heartbreaking sorrowful day. It’s our choice. Being naturally grateful and graciously grateful. For life.

 

Take in the Good

I was having a rough go of it not too long ago. A rough go of life. Things I wanted to happen, didn’t. Things I wanted to say, couldn’t. Things I had worked at, failed. No need for details. We’ve all been there. It happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Rough patches. And some last longer than we thought we could endure. What I had to keep reminding myself, however, was to take in the good, take in the blessing, take in the positive that can always be found in the rough patches.

Count Our Blessings

It’s easy to get caught up in the rough/disappointing/unhappy/bad stuff that happens to us and that’s EVERYWHERE around us these days. So depressing! So much negativity. So much turmoil. So much grief. However, if we focus only on all the heartache, the weight of it all will surely crush us. Rather, instead of examining all the things that are going wrong, that are distressing, why not think about all the things are going right? Counting our blessings. Because we all have something to be thankful for. Loss can open the heart, regret can bring restoration, anxiety can alert us to threats, and anger can spotlight wrongs to be righted.

Take in the good; take in the blessings.

Why it’s good to take in the good

Neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson says that “Given the negativity bias of the brain, it takes an active effort to internalize positive experiences and heal negative ones. When you tilt toward what’s positive, you’re actually righting a neurological imbalance.”  And, happily, guess what? This builds stronger immune and cardiovascular systems, as well as increasing optimism, resilience, and resourcefulness.

Focusing on what’s good, what’s wholesome, and then taking in that good naturally, increases the positive emotions flowing through our minds each day. Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, a leading scholar in the study of emotion and positive psychology, has shown that positive emotions don’t just feel good in the moment, but have long-term benefits. They lift our moods; they increase optimism, resilience, and resourcefulness; and they help counteract the effects of painful experiences, including trauma. It’s a positive cycle: Good feelings today increase the likelihood of good feelings tomorrow.

Taking in the good is not about putting a happy shiny, Pollyanna face on everything. It’s about turning away from the hard things in life. It’s about nourishing our hearts, our inner well-being, nurturing our contentment and peace—shelters during hard times where we can always return.

Take in the good; take in the positive.

Some things I know for sure

1) We don’t always choose our circumstances. But we always choose how we are in those circumstances. It isn’t as much about our circumstances as what we do with them.

2) We see what we expect to see. Look for good, and you will find good. Begin to see the good, to develop a posture of looking and of finding the positive, and you will find joy, you will find blessings. And we may come to realize that the most loved are often the small moments. If we keep our eyes open, we’ll discover that the good is all around us.

Continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected. ~ Philippians 4:8

 

Happy Day Moment Tip

HDM Tip: Look for something to appreciate in this moment, where you are right now

“How are you going to live today?” What will you see? What will you notice, beyond yourself and your own circumstances?

For me, the most important thing is to live with gratitude. Yes, I know, we all get wrapped up in our own lives, in our own busyness, in our own situations. But when it comes down to it, our lives become richer, fuller, when we open our eyes, our ears, our hearts, and discover some moment to appreciate about each day.

And there is always a happy moment to discover, even when we think we’re in the middle of the most boring day, or the most painful circumstance.

Finding something to appreciate in every day is about accepting the full truth of the present moment, focusing our minds on the positive aspects of a situation.

When my Dad died last year, my Mom faced a new kind of situation, a future without the man she had loved and been married to for 63 years. She faced grief and loneliness. But here are some things she did:

  • She did not deny the darkness but chose not to live in it.

“People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. They point each other to flashes of light here and there, and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but real presence of God.” -Henri J.M. Nouwen, Return of the Prodigal Son

  • She felt love and gratitude for all the memories she and Dad shared, even the hard years of Dad’s dementia.
  • She felt hope and gratitude because she knew that one day she would rejoice with Dad in heaven.
  • She noticed others and looked beyond her own circumstances, choosing to give herself to loving and encouraging and ministering God’s peace and comfort to others.

Every day my Mom carries Dad’s love with her. And she will miss him every day of her life. Our whole family will. But she lives in the light; she appreciates the moments; she lives with gratitude, and that covers all her grief and loneliness.

Finding something to appreciate, a Happy Day Moment, even in those hard places and challenging circumstances, involves looking beyond those things that we didn’t choose, weren’t prepared for, and perhaps didn’t want. Instead of looking at the ways situations are hard or disappointing or bad, we can choose to focus on the things that call forth gratitude.

The key: understanding that even in the dark, there are stars. The positive emotions that arise when we identify what we appreciate, what we love, are life-changing. Gratitude, love, hope, optimism, compassion, awe, the joy of God — these all make us healthier, happier, and more satisfied with our lives.

The more you do something deliberately over time, the better shot you have at it actually working. Like finding light in darkness. Like finding something to appreciate, like living with gratitude. Like discovering a “moment” each day to appreciate.

 

Take action: Find something to appreciate about the situation you are in.

Join the discussion: Tell me about something you appreciate about today. Share in the comments or discuss on Facebook here.

 

3,000! A Milestone

It’s been a while! The line from The Princess Bride — the book, not the movie — keeps running through my mind: “What with one thing and another, three years passed.”

So, it hasn’t been exactly three years since my last blog post, but it has been three months. All the stuff of 2018. Exhausting. I can’t even.

Although posting on my website has been as saggy as my granny batwings, posting a daily Happy Day Moment on my Facebook has been as toned as my friend’s marathon-running bod. I have big feelings about this habit, this commitment to find and write a Happy Day Moment … this focus on living with gratitude.

This Happy Day Moment challenge, which I began on April 1, 2010, has now reached a milestone: #3,000. Yes, that’s 3,000 consecutive days of discovering and recording a “moment” each day that reminded me to be grateful. {Yes, you can applaud/throw confetti/send chocolates and/or vacation packages …. 😊}

I’ve realized throughout these last eight years that gratitude is like most desirable traits and qualities in that it’s not enough to simply decide to be grateful – we must actively practice it to cement its place in our lives.

There are many reasons why gratitude is such a desirable quality, aside from its inherent goodness. Let me assure you, finding a Happy Day Moment, the simple daily act of being grateful, has had a big impact on my health and happiness. It only takes a few minutes a day to choose to recall, to discover a HDM, but it can give me a lasting mood boost that takes me from feeling “okay” to feeling “great” and feeling “blessed.”

What is a Happy Day Moment?

Although I use Facebook to record my Happy Day Moments, you can write them in a notebook or journal if you choose. I’m encouraging you to try it! Begin to catalog a daily blessing, a daily “happy” moment!

Quite simply, it’s become my tool to keep track of the good things in life. No matter how difficult and defeating my day can sometimes feel, there is always a “moment,” something to feel grateful about. We can all be grateful.

While it’s tough to find that “moment,” that “something” to be grateful about during a rough patch, it’s not just another “easy to say, but hard to do” action – it can actually help rescue you during a storm.

Even more than that, regularly finding a “moment” and identifying the good things in your life can help prepare and strengthen you to deal with unexpected heartache and pain.

We all have own challenges and difficult days. Yet, even in my darkest days, my instinct is to feel grateful for the things that I do have and for the things that are going well. I let gratitude be the doorway to hope; once hopeful, I find strength and the will to take one small step that moves me to better and easier times.

It’s God’s way. It’s who we can choose to be. Grateful.

Discovering a Happy Day Moment

Your HDM is a personal endeavor that must be unique to you and your life. I’ve written about some ways that I discover “moments.”

It’s extremely simple to find your own Happy Day Moment: simply write down (or post on your Facebook/social media) the thing you are grateful for on a daily basis. Simply start noting the moment or things you notice and appreciate.

  • Coffee with a friend? Happy Day Moment it!
  • Cubs win!? Happy Day Moment it!
  • Eating popcorn? Happy Day Moment it!
  • Chocolate in the house? Happy Day Moment it!
  • That film with Benedict Cumberbatch? Happy Day Moment it!
  • Spouse killed a ginormous spider? You guessed it – Happy Day Moment it!

It really is that easy.

But try this: Use your senses! Use your heart!

  • Seeing … The sunrise out your window … A quick text from a loved one simply checking in on you … A child’s smile. … An elderly couple holding hands while walking at the mall.
  • Feeling … That morning smooch from your spouse … The warm embrace of a friend … The comfort of slipping into bed with freshly washed sheets.
  • Tasting … The strawberries you had for lunch … Tacos, oh the happy tastebuds rejoice for tacos … Cotton candy and its deliciously sweetness and how the fluffiness in your mouth feels funny. But good funny.
  • Smelling … Bacon frying, as a great man named Homer once said: “mmmmmmmmmmmm, Bacon” … Popcorn, always popcorn … Lilacs blooming in the spring.
  • Hearing … A colleague say, “Great job!” … The sound of rain falling on your window at night, calming and relaxing you … Your playlist with the songs you absolutely need to hear.
  • Knowing … The joy that Jesus loves you each and every day … The peace of having enough food and a roof over your head … That you made it through the day without crying/coughing/sneezing.

Your HDM doesn’t have to be deep. What you are grateful for can be as simple as “family” or “the new book or movie I recently enjoyed” or “this morning’s breakfast.” What you are grateful for will differ from everyone else.

  • Be conscious about your new attitude of gratitude.
  • Don’t wait for the “right time.” It’s fine to write something early in the day!
  • Focus on people rather than things. It’s okay to be thankful for your smartphone or your car, but the joy you receive from relationships should dwarf your fondness for electronics!

Benefits of Happy Day Moment

Identifying a Happy Day Moment can give you a new perspective on what is important to you and what you truly appreciate in your life. By noting what you are grateful for, you can gain clarity on what you want to have more of in your life, and what you can do without. HDMs can help you find out and focus on what really matters to you. Keeping a HDM list helps you learn more about yourself and become more self-aware. On days when you’re meh, icky and really bummed, or angry and grumpy at the world {yes, I get that way, too}, you can read through your list of HDMs to readjust your attitude and remember all the blessings in your life.

Identifying a Happy Day Moment can make you more mindful, helping you to become more grounded, making it easier to notice even more things you are grateful for! HDMs can help you feel more balanced and less thrown off by daily stress. You may notice that a lot more small, good things are happening – or maybe you’ll notice the small, good things that were already happening. Your gratitude might act as a beacon to good things and good people, drawing even more positive things to be grateful for to you. It can make you feel accomplished, even if it’s a relatively small accomplishment. We all need a win, no matter how big or small.

In case you’re wondering “What, exactly, will this practice, this habit, do for me?” – read on to learn about the potential benefits of the simple practice of being grateful and finding a Happy Day Moment.

Give this challenge of finding a daily Happy day Moment a chance. The common wisdom is that it takes three weeks to establish a new habit, so aim for at least three weeks of daily HDMs before making any judgments. The only thing you stand to lose if you don’t take to this HDM is a few minutes a day – hardly a huge loss!

Armed with these suggestions and encouragement, hopefully you’ll find it easy to begin and maintain your own habit of finding a HAPPY DAY MOMENT!

{Let me know how you’re doing! … Make a comment!}