I hope you had a wonderful February. I have 2 friends born on February 29th and we had the fun of celebrating their ‘real’ birthdays. Scott, born in 1960 celebrated 11 ‘real’ birthdays and Margaret, born in 1932 celebrated her 21st, and what a celebration that was. A true 21st with all the trimmings, including the traditional giant key. I don’t know that the giant key is a thing anymore but it use to be that turning 21 represented becoming an adult and a traditional gift, in Margaret’s world at least, was the presentation of a key to represent opening the door to the rest of your life. It was a brilliant event, thank you Margaret.
Birthdays serve to remind us of the importance of celebration. Celebrations bring people together, They give us a sense of belonging and connectedness, both of which are vital to our happiness.
We’re all aware of the types of celebrations that have come down to us through the ages – momentous events, rites of passage and religious observances. I believe that everything should be celebrated, not necessarily with a party or a big event but at the very least with an inner feeling of joy and I believe that celebration begins with gratitude.
In my workshops gratitude is always a topic for discussion. We begin with the simple ideas:
Start your day with celebration: Before you get out of bed take a moment to indentify things you’re grateful for.
Say thank you: Show your appreciation to those who show kindness or support you during the day. You never know the impact your smile and thank you might have.
Take moments of reflection: For some people this might mean prayer and for others it’s moments of reflective mindfulness –the idea is to focus on the day that has been and being grateful for all that has occurred.
The comment ‘all that has occurred’ often takes our discussion in a new direction. Can we be grateful for the problems, the difficulties, the negatives that might be a part of our days or our lives?
The answer of course is yes. As difficult as things might seem there is time for gratitude. The difficulties teach us patience and resilience. When I go through tough times I’m grateful for the resilience to get through and to those who support me when times are hard. When things begin to settle again I’m grateful for the experience and the lessons the journey provided. In one of my groups a lovely young man pulled out a card he carries in his wallet. It read “Thank your for all the difficult times, to date I have survived 100% of them, so far, so good!”
I’m also one to recommend keeping a gratitude journal or diary. I refer to the idea as counting your blessings - taking time each day, or once every few days, to reflect on the things you are grateful for and committing them to print. I also appreciate that the idea of keeping a journal won’t suit everyone. If a journal or diary isn’t for you you might like to try the ‘rampage of appreciation’.
The idea is simple and I think it’s a lot of fun:
Think about the things you are grateful for - the big and the seemingly minute.
Set a timer for 30 seconds, grab a pen or pencil, open your journal or grab some paper and go! Cover the page with the things you thought about. Write quickly and decisively and don’t stop until the timer goes off. If you run out of ideas repeat ones you’ve already written.
When I tried my first ‘rampage of appreciation’ I thought it was a bit crazy but I also really enjoyed it. I began by writing on scraps paper but before long I’d graduated to a journal. I love the random and creative look of the pages, to me so much more exciting than a tidy list.
I also use my journal as my colouring book. Over time I’ve gone back to some of the ideas that really make me smile and decorated them with colour and doodled flowers and other things in the spaces. It adds a whole new dimension of appreciation and creates moments of creative mindfulness when I need some time out of my day, allowing me to go back and remember some of the things that have made me smile in the past. I think it’s loads of fun. I’ve also discovered that I’ve needed to increase my rampage time to 60 seconds. The more your think about gratitude the more there is to be grateful for.
The next Happiness Hotline will come to you from Phoenix Arizona where I’m attending and speaking at the annual conference of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humour. I’m heading out to Phoenix from Sydney straight after the Happiness and Its Causes conference. For me April is a full month of happiness training immersion! I’ll be taking my Ramage of Appreciation journal with me. While I’m away my first university assignment for the year is due, the subject is statistics! I’ll need the journal!
Have a brilliant month, keep happy, celebrate lots and practice gratitude and appreciation. They really will make you smile.