A GRATITUDE MEDITATION TO BUILD UP YOUR HAPPINESS MUSCLES
If you’ve heard of the brain’s negativity bias you’ll know that humans evolved to favour bad news. That is, to be on the lookout for threats (as do antelope in the Serengeti) and commit negative events to memory to be able recall and avoid them next time.
A handy skill to have when it’s you or the lion. But in modern times? A nuisance for the most part! It means we worry about stuff that will likely never happen, we blow things out of proportion and we don’t actually see the amazing things that are happening before us each and every day.
Happiness is a skill. It’s something we should teach our kids they can choose, develop, practice, learn – as enthusiastically as we do about their sports, their manners and their times tables.
So this a meditation for playing ‘spotlight’ with joy. To seek it out, to recall it, to commit it to memory so that we recognise it in mindful moments and actually shift our happiness set point.
This meditation is one you can do to build up your happiness muscles. Muscles that just like the ones in your body, need to be strengthened and conditioned for a brighter mental landscape.
So getting yourself into a comfy position. Inviting an ease and loosening of the body, and of the mind, ahead of our meditation.
And if you’ve found yourself fighting sleep in meditation recently – that’s actually OK – you can accept the sleepy state just as it is and if it means nodding off then so be it.
But if you prefer, you can also try to encourage a more alert kind of relaxation by freeing your back to sit unsupported at various times throughout the meditation, as well as tilting your chin slightly upwards to shake off any dullness.
But together we’ll start with the intention of a wakeful kind of relaxation and we’ll do this by first connecting with the breath.
Connecting in with the breath where you can feel it best. Using the cooling in-breath and the warming out-breath to get things started.
Breathing in energy and alertness.
Breathing out relaxation into the body.
Breathing in attention and vibrancy.
Breathing out a deep restfulness into the body.
Breathing in wakefulness and clarity.
Breathing out calm and stillness through the body.
And what I’d like you to do now is cast your mind back on your day. And see if you can recall any moments of pleasure or joy. A conversation. Or a song you heard on the radio. Any moments outside in the sunshine, or the first sip of coffee for the day.
Just sitting here and allowing any little moments of happiness from your day to present themselves to you in memory.
And if not today then maybe yesterday or sometime in the past week.
Something, or many things, that brought a smile to your face either inwardly or outwardly.
PRESENT MOMENT JOY
And having recalled these little glimpses of joy or contentment from the recent past, now I’d like you to bring your awareness into the present moment. To the here and now. To all the things that you can hear – inside and outside. And all the things you can feel – either emotions or other sensations in the body. Just noticing whatever is arising moment to moment.
Is there anything in there you can appreciate? Anything you can you feel happy about?
There may be pain in the body, there may be fatigue, there may be feelings of sadness or anxiety or anger. You can accept all of these things just as they are…. But you can also ask yourself – in every moment that arises – can I feel grateful for this?
This time you’ve carved out for yourself.
These sounds that are all around.
Memories that return from the past, or thoughts that arise about the future.
Any people in your midst either known or unknown.
What about any of your experiences, both here in meditation, and out in the world, can you appreciate? Find the joy in? See beauty within?
I’ll leave you now to continue on in silent meditation. You can keep going with this cultivation of a positive, thankful state of mind… or move on to whatever style of meditation presents itself to you in the first few quiet moments.