10 minutes to Happiness

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A close friend, troubled by present circumstances in her life recently asked me what happiness means to me. And it got me thinking…for about 3 mins…before I gave her a satisfactory answer. Cos I sorta cracked the code to my happiness a couple of years ago. An article I read by psychologist Sonali Gupta just yesterday seems to reinforce some of the same ideas. Which is what prompted this post. Pardon my repetition and my limited vocabulary. I’m writing a blog post after more than a decade maybe. And years of honing design skills and not writing has gotten me a bit rusty in this area.

But I digress…

Ah…happiness! You probably know that it doesn’t come from a single material possession you own or aspire to ever own in future.

Anyone who’s ever claimed to be always happy isn’t necessarily lying through their teeth. Because happiness doesn’t always mean being chirpy or spreading joy to the world around you. Sometimes it manifests as calmness and feeling at peace with the world. And the longer you can stay in this state of being, the more the happiness multiplies…

Now I am the kinda creature you’d generally categorize as a happy person! I revel in being the comic in every social situation. I make friends easily, have a superhuman ability to talk nonstop, and am usually in a good mood. But I found myself in an emotional rut a few years ago. I complained about everything and everyone around, and I made life miserable for myself and my family. Thankfully, I figured there was a problem here. And it was me! Lost and confused, I had the good sense to turn to a couple of worldly wise friends for advice. I’m thankful that I did, for they put me on the path of a gratitude journey that’s changed my life.

Did you know that you can rewire your brain and change the way you think, just by writing down 3 things you are grateful for every day, for 21 days. 21 days. That’s all it takes to form this lifelong habit. It’s that simple.

Now I know you were expecting some magical but complicated solution to happiness. And you might even argue that you are generally grateful for your life and understand that you are luckier than most and so on…

Allow me to explain the magic of a gratitude journal, if I may.

With our busy lives, hectic schedules and overstimulating environment (read: Netflix), our minds have little time to mull over our experiences and really feel what we are experiencing in our day. And you just might be unconsciously carrying a lot of that baggage like dissatisfaction, sadness, frustration and anger around with you all day.

A daily bed-time practice of writing down the 3 things you are grateful for on that day, lets you deliberate and choose the best things the day gave you. It helps you give closure to your day, gives you clarity of thought, a general sense of well-being and yes, a good night’s sleep.

Why write every day though?
It’s easy to write about the big achievements, the successes and the triumphs of course. They won’t come everyday, but every time you have something to be grateful for, you’ll be waiting to jot it down. Writing experiences down lets you relive them again, and who wouldn’t want to relive happy times.

The real test is on the days when you have seemingly NOTHING to be thankful for.
My mother lost a dear friend to cancer 10 days after she began her gratitude journey. That night, I saw her emphatically cross out the space where the day’s entry would have been, with a red marker in her journal. I know how she might have felt that day, but compare that to a journal entry where you thank the universe/God for ending your friend’s suffering. It may have given my mom closure and peace in her heart that night.

It is this peace that the gratitude-writing exercise bestows you with. It changes the way you think, feel, react and respond to external stimuli and lets you see the positive side in every situation.
A couple of weeks after I started this practice, I got a call from my driver one afternoon that he’d had an accident and the car was damaged quite badly. Now this man is morbidly afraid of my temper. And he had reason to be afraid. Historically, I’d reacted very badly to news like this. But this time I calmly listened (to my utter surprise!) to his apology, and all I asked was if he’d been hurt. The only thing I remember thinking then was, “Thank God it didn’t happen when my daughter was in the car, and thank God he didn’t get hurt in the accident.” My own reaction caught me by surprise!

The magic of gratitude soon got me to create one of Cupik Design’s most cherished products, the personalised Gratitude Journal. Not that you can’t write in any journal or pretty notebook, but the personalised one just made it a meaningful gift for anyone who needed to start writing one. Even if it was for themselves. And every year, we hear wonderful stories from people who have been gifted one, or started writing one themselves, and how it’s shaped their thinking and their lives.

I’d urge you to try expressing gratitude daily, if only to be more aware of your feelings, and relish and savour the daily gifts that life gives us. You’ll soon find that the depth of your gratitude is directly proportional to the happiness quotient in your life :-).

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