Musings: Gratitude for Simple Pleasures

A few weeks ago I was chatting with my good friend who manages a large naval commissary.

We both mentioned the rising stress level we see among the general public, as well as those we know — customers, co-workers, family members, friends, and even ourselves. There’s increased rudeness and rushing, and a lack of awareness and plain old common sense. People just don’t seem to be themselves anymore.

Despite his natural optimism, my friend noted, “There’s no good news in the world anymore. It’s all bad. Everyone is just waiting for the other shoe to fall.”

Although I knew he was exaggerating, I had to agree. Without even being aware of it, we are all living on “alert” and constantly buzzing with a subtle undertone of stress in wondering when and where the next bad thing will occur. There is also a sharp division of opinion within our country about how to address the many grave challenges we face globally and as a nation, and what America’s role in the world should be. This confusion contributes such great stress to our lives, that it threatens our survival and way of living as much as any potential terrorist attack, economic collapse or sudden natural disaster. People are poised to snap. We are pitting ourselves against each other and destroying our health, happiness and planet in the process.

As Americans, we have learned to soothe our stress by purchasing new things and seeking out entertainment to distract us. But vacations and shows end all too quickly, and things are new for only so long before we must buy something else to stimulate our interest and excitement. So we are constantly running a treadmill of working to afford our new purchases and diversions, seeking out the next new thing, and maintaining and securing what we already own. It’s a non-stop effort! And all the while, a deep discomfort is quietly creeping into our awareness that we are still distracted, insecure and unfulfilled. We are not really happy, but we are sick and tired. This is the root of the stress and imbalance we experience every day of our lives and have come to accept as a normal way of living.

By following the path of seeking out simple pleasures in our lives instead of all these material things, we can lighten our burdens and bring light and joy back into our lives. The first step to enjoying these pleasures is to slow down enough to recognize them. Peace — both inner and outer — is perhaps the greatest simple pleasure of all, and helps lay the foundation for us to enjoy the truly finer things in life, including better health. Although peace is never further away than our own thoughts, it can seem mighty elusive amidst the current of our daily stress, negativity and endless concerns about time, money and safety. As more and more of us reach the point of no return — “Stop the ride! I want to get off!” — we become more willing to let our whirlwind lifestyles go and invest ourselves in simplicity instead.

Where can this peace be found within such turmoil? Gratitude is a most useful tool for cultivating peace and simplicity in our lives. It helps us to pause, rethink, and become creative and inspired rather than spiraling further downward in our fear, worry and depression. For every anxiety and negative outlook, there is a grateful thought that can be substituted instead to lift our mood, our health and move our lives forward in a positive, peaceful direction right at that very moment. However, you, the thinker, must make the decision choose a different thought.

If you are contemplating the two hundred pounds you wish to lose, be thankful it’s not three hundred and you are already one third closer to your goal! When your back aches in spasms of pain, find some sunlight or moonlight streaming through a window and gratefully bask in its healing glow. Step outside or open a window and appreciate one of summer’s exotic aromas you hadn’t noticed before. Instead of allowing anger and frustration to build when you are pressed for time and your child is dawdling in getting out the door, remember how loved and special he is when he’s sleeping safely and peacefully in his bed at night, and watch your annoyance fade instantly. Every situation of panic, concern or irritation also has its unique antidote in a thought of thankfulness.

One by one, these small remembrances of gratitude in our individual lives almost always open us to a greater awareness for the beauty of this planet — the air, the water, the sun, the people, creatures, plants and all the abundance which sustains us through the grace of Mother Earth and Creator. There is nothing like the gratitude we feel for the warmth of home, mother and father. Through gratitude, we renew our connection with our divine origins, filling our hearts like a continuously flowing fountain of love. Giving thanks releases all burdens. In this way we can begin to enjoy life’s simple pleasures and heal our lives.

Carol Bedrosian is publisher and editor of Spirit of Change.