America, the past few weeks have been anxiety-producing and downright tough. I’m not going into politics today and in this space. Instead, I’m telling you about the Thankful Jar (again) and why I’m bringing it back.
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving last year, I got an idea via an NPR story and Pinterest to make a Thankful Jar. It’s a simple project. You cut up pieces of paper, make your family write down what they’re thankful for daily, and toss them into a mason jar. You can pick any time to read them. We read ours on Thanksgiving last year.
This year, I feel like we need a little extra thankfulness, so we’re going to keep the Thankful Jar going through the end of the year, reading what we’ve written sporadically (read: on the rare night that we’re not stuffing food in our faces and running off to sports or music class).
Why am I bringing back the Thankful Jar? Because we have so much to be thankful for, and it’s easy to lose sight of that. Practicing daily gratitude has many benefits–both physical and mental. And it’s contagious. My go-to website lately for mindfulness and practicing gratitude is Berkeley’s Greater Good in Action.
But back to the Thankful Jar. This year, more than others, America, let’s spend the week before Thanksgiving (one week from today) being thankful. If you want more details about it, you can check out my blog from last year here.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about joy. What is it? Why is it so slippery? One minute I have a firm grip on joy. The next minute joy’s up and gone without a word, and I’m left wondering where the heck it went.
The reason I have been thinking about joy a lot over the past few days is that I’m in the middle of a joy drought. My life feels too busy, and when I feel too busy, I get rundown. I don’t know about you, but when I’m rundown, I start to feel resentful. When I feel resentful, I get bitchy. And it’s a straight line from bitchy to lashing out at those closest to me.
When I’ve reached the bitchy point, it’s hard work to flip my thoughts around and start practicing gratitude. But oh so worth it–my husband/manchild and kids can attest! The bottom line is that no one can make you happy or joyful. You have to knuckle down and work at making choices that will lead you to joy. It does get easier, though–practicing gratitude.
I’m sharing three simple things that I’m going to do to nurture myself and get out of my joyless rut. Even if you have time for one of these things, it will help shift your perspective and bring you closer to joy.
Be more altruistic. If you’re short on time, pay it forward the next time you’re at Starbucks and buy the lady behind you a coffee. If you can spare an hour or two, volunteer in a way that’s meaningful to you.Volunteer Matchis a great resource for finding organizations that are a fit for you. Giving to others makes you think about how good you have it, and it feels good to give back to the world.
Practice daily gratitude. Before Thanksgiving, my family practiced daily gratitude by using a thankful jar. We wrote one thing per day and dropped it into the jar to read on Thanksgiving morning. It made us think about how much we had and helped us shake off any negative blahs. An easier version of this is to write down (or dictate to Siri) one thing per day that makes you thankful and skip the jar. Challenge yourself to do this for a week.
Make more time for exercise, even if it’s a twenty-minute walk. The endorphins released during exercise will boost your mood and help you shift your perspective. After an hour of yoga or boot camp, I feel taken care of mentally and physically, and I can return to my family able to contribute in a positive and loving way. If I start a workout feeling weighed down by life, I make a point of using the workout to think about what’s going on, how I can let go of negative thoughts, and focus on being joyful instead.
Bonus: If you have five minutes to spare and want to dork out on the definition of joy, click herefor a YouTube video from the Yale Center for Faith and Culture.