One evening, a Cherokee elder told his grandson about the battle that goes on inside people's heads. He said, "My son, the battle is between the two 'wolves' that live inside us all. One is Unhappiness. It is fear, worry, anger, jealousy, sorrow, self pity, resentment and inferiority. The other is Happiness. It is joy, love, hope, serenity, kindness, generosity, truth and compassion." The grandson thought about it for a minute nd then asked, "Which wolf wins?" The old Cherokee simply replied "The one you feed."
Last Thankful Thursday, Christie from over at Ie Love, commented on my post and said "the link between gratitude and well being is something that I find really interesting".
When I wrote the post, in my mind, I didn't make the connection between gratitude and well being. I was too focussed on trying absolutely anything to try and change my perspective on the world and make myself feel a bit better. But Christie's comment got me thinking...
Then, on Monday I stumbled across an except in a magazine at my local cafe that really tied what I was trying to do with Christie's comment about the connection between gratitude and well being!
Let it be said that my local cafe has magazines older than most doctor's waiting rooms! And the excerpt that I found was in an issue of the Australian Women's Weekly from September 2008 (hence I've not been able to locate a copy of the article in online archives), but it still gave me food for thought!
The excerpt came from a book called Happy For No Reason by a lady named Marci Shimoff, and it was based around the theory that each of us has a "happiness set point", or a fixed point of happiness, that is formed both by genetics and by learning, but which we can influence and raise through a series of steps outlined in the book. In simpler terms the premise was that we can think of happiness as a skill and train our minds to be happy, by changing the way we behave and think. Like by noticing the happy things in our lives, by tending to our relationships, and by finding passion and purpose.
All of this sounded very similar to something I wrote about here not long after I started this blog in December.
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is based on identifying and changing relationships to modes of mind that characterise and contribute to mood disorders, such as depression and unhappiness, through a combination of cognitive therapy, meditative techniques, and the cultivation of mindfulness.
Mindfulness has become a "hot topic" in modern psychology since the 1970's. The term "mindfulness" is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as: "The state or quality of being mindful; attention; regard".
In the context of Buddhism, mindfulness relates to having constant presence of mind and focus in each activity performed.
Very simply put, both this book and MBCT assert that a greater level of happiness can be attained by paying closer attention to what is happening in our lives, and in ourselves in response to things happening in our lives. By having the presence of mind to identify negtive thoughts occuring, or identify things that may trigger negative thoughts, we are then giving ourselves the ability to choose to try to change our responses or thoughts, thereby retraining ourselves to override negative bias and starve our negativity by choosing to feed our positivity instead (to come back to the wolf story).
I suppose, in light of all this, my Thankful Thursdays are less about showing my gratitude (not that I'm not grateful for having good things in my life), and more about starving my negativity, feeding my positivity, and retraining myself to have more positive inclinations.
I don't expect to become a saint and for my Happiness wolf to kill off my Unhappiness wolf, never to be seen again. But I do want to try damn hard to give my Happiness wolf a bloody good head start on things, for the sake of myself, my relationship, and my baby.
Thankful Thursday aims to remind myself, and others, that although shit happens, there are still good things in life, even if they're just little things, that we can't forget to focus on.
So, without further ado, my three things to be thankful for this Thursday are:
- My pool - I am thankful for my pool for giving me some relief from the dreafully opressive heat and humidity.
- My pets - I am thankful for my cats and dogs for loving me unconditionally, and for the entertaining and calming influence they have on me.
- My house - I am thankful to have a roof over my head and somewhere for my child to call home. I may complain about it's history and a lack of furniture, but it is a lot more than many people have and I am a lucky human being to have it provided for me!