In the Buddhist tradition, desire is seen as the root of all suffering – when we’re dissatisfied with our lives its because we’re attached to the idea that something better is out there that we don’t have. One of the reasons social media is bad for our mental health is because it feeds us a kind of highlight reel of other people’s lives and accomplishments, which increases our desire and unhappiness. We also get too used to normal, leaving us blind to the good things right in front of us.
So you might look at gratitude as being the antidote to that sense of dissatisfaction. We can be grateful for the important things like the people we love or our health, but it makes even more difference to take joy in the small things in our world . This might be sitting down in a comfortable chair, walking in the park or when you see a bird land in the garden. If you train your awareness regularly through meditation you can be more attuned to these small moments of happiness.
To really kick it up a notch and get the happy juices flowing, you can practice mindful gratitude for the normal, everyday, mundane stuff we usually don’t notice. Thich Nhat Hanh illustrates this with a toothache – if you’ve ever had one you know how painful it is and you’re aware of it all the time. You’d give anything just to go back to normal again, that feeling of not having a toothache.
Once you go to the dentist and get it sorted out the relief is incredible and normal feels amazing – in mindfulness we call feeling that our non-toothache, the enjoyment and gratitude for simply being alive. We can feel this for our inbreath and outbreath, you can enjoy your posture, you can enjoy the feeling of your heart beating. When you get into the practice of enjoying the small things and the normal things, that’s walking the path of happiness. There is no path to happiness, happiness is the path.
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