Dancing down the drive to snow music

Snow music
 
Ice crust

My feet 
find a beat
on the drum-tight shell
of ice-topped snow;

a crisp rattle,
then a tinkling, skittering
whisper of melody.

And I dance –
to the song that I hear
and to hear the music
of my dance!

February 13, 2018

 

Yes, for the last two days I have been dancing joyfully down our drive, delighting in the crispness of the air and beneath my feet and the unfamiliar soundscape!

Gratitude is good for you!

(The third of three interconnected posts on gratitude)

Increasingly science suggests that gratitude is good for us.

Research by Robert Emmons indicates that people who consciously focus on gratitude experience greater emotional wellbeing and physical health than those who don’t. Gratitude:

  • Brings us happiness, boosting optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm and other positive emotions.
  • Reduces anxiety and depression.
  • Is good for our bodies, strengthening the immune system, lowering blood pressure, reducing symptoms of stress, illness and aches and pains and encouraging us to take care of ourselves.
  • Improves sleep
  • Makes us more resilient
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Promotes forgiveness
  • Feeds altruism and compassion

In particular, says Emmons,

“I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.”
Greater Good Website – Why Gratitude is Good

He suggests that “true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others”, whether other people or ‘higher powers’ and lists four reasons for its transformative power:

  1. It allows us to celebrate the present and magnifies positive emotions
  2. It blocks toxic, negative emotions
  3. It provides resistance against stress
  4. It results in a heightened sense of self-worth

He acknowledges that the practice of gratitude can be challenging. It is predicated on acceptance rather than control. It is at odds with the ‘self-serving bias’. It contradicts the ‘just-world’ hypothesis, which says that we get what we deserve, and the sense of ‘entitlement’ that rest on this.

Cultivating gratitude, therefore, has to be a conscious choice and lifelong practice.

The infomatic below, included by Robert Emmons on the Greater Good website, gives a great sense of why you might want to cultivate the practice of gratitude.

What good is gratitude? Infomatic

For more details of this fascinating research, I would encourage you to explore the University of California, Berkeley Greater Good website.

 

(See also Gratitude and Joy – an intimate relationship and Grateful to whom?)

The importance of storytelling

Through listening to and reading the stories of others, we build the tools we need to frame our own experiences. Without words or narrative skill, we cannot reference or fully inhabit what happens to us and our responses to it; we cannot focus our thoughts or our emotions.

Stories give us metaphor, the stuff of the ‘creation of meaning’. They give us legends based on archetypes that enable us to recognize the rich cast of characters that inhabit our inner worlds.

Our ability to tell our own story and, further, to be aware that we choose the particular narrative that we tell ourselves and others, has a profound impact on our capacity for happiness.

The quality of our personal storytelling, as well as our capacity to listen to and truly hear the stories of others, is fundamental to our ability to connect, to build relationship.

Storytelling enables us to share our experiences and our perceptions of them and thus to show each other who we are. Our stories bind us together by connecting us to the commonality of symbol and myth and to our shared humanity.

Frameworks for Happiness (2)

The interesting thing about the framework shown below is that most people seem to assume that you have to work your way ‘upwards’ from pleasure to meaning.

Tony Hsieh points out that research suggests that the opposite is true; if we can figure out our higher purpose first and build the other layers on top of this, we have much more likelihood of achieving enduring happiness.

To me, this implies that, if we were to encourage the cultivation of a capacity for joy, inherent in which is a sense of meaning and connection, it might become more likely that individuals  would put in place the most appropriate building blocks for happiness.

(You can find this image and more in the Resources section of the Delivering Happiness website)

Frameworks for Happiness (1)

There seems to be a certain timeliness in my exploration of joy; with governments looking at indicators of ‘happiness’ and businesses aspiring to ‘deliver happiness’, one can’t help but hope for a sea-change in values and motivations!

Increasingly I find many of the same words cropping up in discussions of models of happiness that I relate to joy; connectedness, flow, engagement, meaning.

In attempting to understand joy, it therefore seems important also to look at happiness in an attempt to grasp what connects and what differentiates them.

Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos), in his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, offers an interesting selection of frameworks through which to view happiness. I am including two of these, with some commentary, in this and a subsequent post. (You can find these and more in the Resources section of the Delivering Happiness website)

In looking at this model, my sense is that perceived control (the ability to impact on outcomes) and perceived progress (some sense of forward motion) are vital to one’s sense of wellbeing and happiness, but not necessarily a component part of joy – interesting that both require a time dimension.

However, connectedness and vision/meaning seem to me to be key to the experience of joy.

In the context of connectedness, I found particularly interesting the conclusion (from The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt) that

. . . happiness doesn’t come primarily from within but, rather, from between.

Vision and meaning are seen in this model as giving us our internal sense of value. However, as indicated in earlier posts, I would also suggest that there is also a need to develop skills in the creation of meaning – meaning does not simply exist outside of ourselves as something we must find but is something that we have the power to bring to our experience of living.

What do you perceive as the connectors and differentiators of happiness and joy? (Please comment!)