Have you ever noticed how much of the time we put off our own happiness for another time?
We’ve all said things like, “I’ll be happy when I lose weight,” or “I’ll be happy when I pay off the car,” or “I’ll be happy when the baby is born,” or “I’ll be happy when the kids are grown,” or “I’ll be happy when I have a better job,” or “I’ll be happy when I finish the book,” or “I’ll be happy when I’m published.” It isn’t that being happy for any of these things is a bad thing. It’s more that we frame our happiness as something that is out there…waiting…for some event which will suddenly–some day in the future–when everything aligns–make us happy.
Our focus on the future point…on what is often ONE future event takes us out of the present moment and robs us of the present moment joy. It also causes a sense of unease around that future point as we can’t help but feel a niggle of uneasiness about what will happen to our eventual happiness if we don’t lose weight…if we pay off the car only to have to buy a new one…if we never get a better job or never get published.
There are hundreds and thousands of small joys that are there for us to enjoy moment to moment. However, if we always have our focus glued to the big event in the future which is supposed to turn all the switches and make us happy once and for all, then we gloss over and miss out on many of the small moments of pleasure which are sandwiched between the mundane tasks of everyday life.
As I’ve gotten older and have worked more on my own spirituality I’ve discovered the power of gratitude to both anchor me to the present moment and to crack apart the moments of everyday mundane activity to release the wonder, the joy, and the pleasure that is trapped inside.
Gratitude tends to be a present moment experience. Most of us don’t go around saying, “I’ll be grateful when I lose weight,” or “I’ll be grateful when I have a better job.” Most of us express gratitude in terms of what we are grateful for in the present moment. “I’m grateful for the flowers outside my office window,” or “I’m grateful for the bunnies chasing each other around the neighbor’s yard.” Notice there is a right now I am enjoying essence to gratitude that is not present when we’re putting off being happy till some future time.
When we focus on gratitude we tend to switch our focus from looking for something that will make us happy in some future moment to what there is to enjoy and take pleasure in right now. We go from I’ll be happy when… to I’m grateful for….RIGHT NOW.
It requires a shift of focus to go from “I’ll be happy when thinking” to “I’m grateful for thinking,” but there are lots of benefits for making the shift. The biggest of these is that happiness, joy, and pleasure become things that are present in every moment with gratitude thinking rather than being things that are mostly out there waiting for some future moment when some event happens or some goal is achieved.
“I’ll be happy when thinking” is like waiting for the big lottery win…and putting most or all of your eggs in the lottery basket, hoping and praying for a big win. “I’m grateful for thinking” is more like looking around at the present moment to see what there is in this moment to enjoy, to take pleasure in. I”m grateful for thinking is about looking for the joys, big and large that are present just under the surface if we take our focus off the future moment enough to look at them.
In this season of Thanksgiving I’d like to encourage all of my readers to make the shift from “I’ll be happy when…thinking” to “I’m grateful for…thinking.”
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Saturday Sparks at Pieced Pastimes