The Greatness of Gratitude

I can skip along in happiness but never be fulfilled; Joy does that. I can entertain happiness because of the events around me and my positive interaction with them but it is not joy. Do I need to be joyful? What, exactly, is the difference? Does it matter? If I’m happy, why do I also need to be joyful? Aren’t they really the same thing anyway? I am learning that ‘Happiness’ is extrinsic and ‘Joy’ is intrinsic. To be happy involves the interaction between external factors and things that help you feel happy. But it comes from a place outside of you. For example, the weather affects my happiness; I am happy when the sun comes out. Rain, on the other hand, has a disruptive pull on my mood and often brings me down. The only time rain ever brings me happiness occurs when I am grateful for it–as on long hot humid days or in the spring when its smell is like perfume to your soul. What I am actually experiencing at those times is pure joy. But, wait, what is the difference?

As I’m reading “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown, I think the difference is likely in the gratitude. Because I am grateful for the rain, it doesn’t pull me down, instead it builds me up and I experience joy. It is joy because it is coming from an attitude inside me, I believe, that is grateful for the rain. Being grateful comes from inside us, but we have to actually act on it–I experience the rain in a positive frame that is connected to an inner feeling of gratitude and it brings me joy. I think another way of looking at this scenario is if I don’t bring gratitude to the table when it is sunny out; if, I am just glad it’s not raining but don’t bring gratitude for the sunshine, I will experience happiness; if, on the other hand, I am grateful for the sunshine and act on that gratitude by smiling up at the sun with my eyes closed and taking in its warmth and brightness on my closed eyelids, I experience joy! I think I can vouch for this, as a warm feeling consumes my body and my heart skips a beat.

Of course, we can’t be joyful all the time, well I don’t think we can and maybe it wouldn’t even be healthy; after all, one needs the lows in life in order to be grateful for the ‘highs’. Don’t we? What if we were grateful for the lows too? Why would we be grateful for the lows? Because it allows us to experience joy. We don’t know darkness if we don’t know light and vice versa. One doesn’t exist without the other. I guess, and this is just a thought, but, I guess if we lived in darkness, never experiencing the light, we wouldn’t know what we were missing. Life would just be dark–all the time. And although we often feel as if we spend our time mainly in the dark, we wouldn’t despise it as much as we do when we’ve known light. Does that make sense? What would happen, do you think, if we were thankful for the bad days? Would they have as much power over us? Would giving them voice and gratitude actually rebound them into a place of joy? I don’t know, but I’m going to give it a try the next time I’m down.

In the meantime, I think I am going to keep a Gratitude Journal; that is, I’m going to write down all the things I am grateful for during the course of a day. If I repeat myself, that is okay. I just want to test this theory out and see if it actually has an affect on my mood. I think, though, that I also need to practice the attitude of gratitude so I will be cognizant of that as I am rummaging through my daily thoughts.

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