Open hands as we enter this New Year. I have chosen to enter a little social experiment at the invitation of a friend of mine. We had to say yes, without knowing the details, but I took a risk because she always leads us to fun and self-betterment. The idea is based on a Japanese concept called kaizen. She has created a little formula and has asked us to track our emotions regarding the experience. Kaizen means improvement or change for the better, usually continuous, and can be large or small.
We had a day to come up with what small improvement, either personal or professional, we want to make in order to bring more joy and better health to our lives. We had to also decide what would spark us to do this task every time we did it. I had several ideas running around my head. Some of you know that when I was doing my chemo treatments, I could get quite dehydrated which caused some problems. I am one of those people who does not like to drink. Apparently I am not the only one. Several people in the group have chosen to drink more. I am doing this but not tracking the outcome.
Instead I chose to affirm something I am already doing on a daily basis so that I might be more mindful of what I am experiencing. I do a nightly Examen, which many Catholics will be familiar with, especially those of us who use Ignatian spirituality. During an Examen, the person reviewing their day goes through the past 24 hours. noticing where God has been and where God’s presence was missed. God is always there but sometimes we are not aware of this. In the Examen, we give thanks for the blessings experienced. I have been doing this practice for a couple of decades but lately I think I am not obtaining the grace of this gift so I chose to make my kaizen: Be more aware of my gratitude. I have created a gratitude jar so that each night post-Examen, I can write down a few of the moments from the day that I am most grateful for and slip them into the jar. At the end of the 30 days I will re-read these moments of joy. I am hoping that this will rekindle my enthusiasm for this wonderful practice.
Gratitude is a blessing that keeps on giving. If I am grateful, I am happy. If I am thankful for an act that someone did during the day, I will pray for that person. If I see how I missed glimpsing God earlier, I can end my day, with praise and thanksgiving as well as a new perspective of how blessed I truly am. This should lead me to happiness and a healthier state of mind. I have heard it said that when we are happy, we are also healthier.
Perhaps you might want to try this as a 30-day experiment too. Pick something that you want to improve. Say greater hydration is on your list too. Select something to cue you to drinking a cup of water such as before you begin making breakfast you will drink one cup of water. In 30 days, you will have created a healthier you and it should be relatively easy to maintain this small improvement.
I look forward to seeing how this little social experiment goes and I may update you from time to time as to my results.
What one small improvement might you try to make for 30 days?
Does an attitude of gratitude make a difference in your life?
Create in me, O God, a heart that is grateful. Make me ever mindful that you bless me many times throughout the day. Turn my praise to you again and again. Amen.
The Kaizen philosophy was introduced at the City of Winnipeg when I was still working there in my days of Continuous Improvement. I really like the “challenge” and your ideas! Will reflect on my Kaizen resolution…
Looking back at the past year I can see how I have worked on some of these small steps without actually naming it- but the training I have had in step by step teaching tasks has had me looking at “what do I have to do first before anything else can happen?” In the case of just doing 30 minutes on a treadmill 3-5 x week I realized I have to show up! I can’t increase my speed or time or intensity if I don’t show up. But I can’t show up if I don’t get enough sleep the night before so I realized I have to work on my sleep habits…. etc. etc. But it is all good because it helps me reflect also on consequences: when finding myself in a mess, I usually have to unwind several “chains” of events that have led up to the problem…. And as I write this it brings to mind “Mary, Untier of Knots”! How did that just happen!? ; ) Thanks for the nudge, Suzanne, whether you realized it or not!
Ha! I am getting to you, Mary Beth! Mary, Untier of Knots, pray for us!
PS. A thought popped into my head just now…. “I wonder if there is an Examen app”? Yes there is. I downloaded it just now. (Reimagining the Examen on iTunes or on Google Play). I might decide that I don’t want my device on my nightstand but this can get me started and I can always get a print version or a book. Thanks again, Suzanne, for writing often about your use of the Examen.