Gratitude is the thread that weaves our life experiences into a celebration of all that we are and are becoming.
We know the value of gratitude in our life. But, it is not always easy to stay grateful, as life doesn’t always go our way. Our tendency is to focus more on our troubles than to stay focused on the many things that enrich us.
Believe it or not, this has more to do with our hard-wiring than we may think. The brain is hard-wired to evaluate experience in terms of threat. This fight-or-flightposition toward the things that happen to us can lead us to see events in a negative light. This is detrimental to our wellbeing. Our physical, mental and spiritual health depends upon our ability to see the positive in the things that happen to us. Even if we have to put effort to bring this about, research on gratitude shows it’s worth it.
Distinguished Psychologist Dr. Robert Emmon’s studies on gratitude show that people who are grateful report higher levels of wellbeing:
- They have lower levels of stress and depression, feel better about their lives as a whole and are more optimistic about the future.
- They are more likely to make progress toward their health, learning and relationship goals,
- They are more empathic and more likely to help other people with personal problems or offer them emotional support.
- They have greater energy, more positive mood, and a greater feeling of connectedness to other people.
There’s no doubt about it, being grateful is the way to well-being and fulfillment. But, the type of gratitude that bolsters well being is more than putting a positive spin on the things that happen to us.
Gratitude is a way of relating to experience that helps us to make sense of the past, bring hope for today, and create direction for tomorrow, because we stay aware of everything that leads to the richness of our lives ~ the joy and loss, the achievements and failures.
Gratitude gets us to start looking at all there is to the things that happen to us. Like a kaleidoscope, it opens awareness, deepens perspective, and gives meanings that revive and move us forward. Without opening up every facet to our story, there are no lessons learned, no morals or blessings, and no sense of deep meaning or purpose.
We deserve all the blessings that come our way, but it helps us to make time to consider them. Keeping a weekly journal or list of the experiences, people and things that enrich our lives helps us to bring to our awareness all for which we are thankful. Solving problems gets easier, too, as they don’t get more of our attention than they deserve.
Are you ready to get grateful? The following are ways of expressing gratitude. Use them as a guide to think through the ways in which you are grateful for your life.
Give thanks for the people, pets and things in your world that make your life better. There are people, pets, and things in your life that bring you joy and help you to cope better with life’s challenges. Consider who and what they are. Give them thanks today. Perhaps it is your parents or siblings, children, pet or friend who you feel blessed to have in your life. Maybe, for you, it is a church or other activity that enriches your life experience. Take time out today to give thanks for whatever it is that is making your life better.
Give thanks for the things that you brought into this world. We are so hard on ourselves sometimes, focusing more on what we haven’t done than on all of the things that we’ve created in this life. Give thanks today for all that you have created for yourself in this life so far. You may have created a loving family, raised fine children, or supported a cause that is important to you. Be grateful today for all that you personally do and have brought into the world.
Give thanks for the gifts, talents and capabilities that support your life, financially, emotionally, or spiritually. You may be blessed with a strong, healthy body, a good mind, a creative spirit, or a special talent for self-expression. You may have a special gift, talent or capability that supports you mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually. Many of you know that before I became a psychologist, I sang Opera professionally, for a short time. It was hard for me, emotionally, when I realized that the circumstances of my life did not support a singing career. In tough times, my singing talent afforded me a great way to release whatever pain I was feeling. My artistic nature also sensitized me to the plight of others that I continue to use in my work as a psychologist. Give thanks for your talents that keep on giving, no matter how much your life changes. These types of blessings were just meant for you, to help you on your life journey.
Give thanks for your life lessons. Turn a consciousness of lacking into one of richness. Reflect upon the lessons in your life that may have brought you pain, but that taught you how to live much better, either through learning to work at what feels more true to you, choosing mates who made your life better rather than worse, or any other point of learning that taught you something about yourself, others, and the world. I know there’s something there, some lesson or understanding that will help you to live better in the future.
The Thanksgiving holiday is certainly the right time of year to give thanks for all of the blessings that make our lives more joyful. Let’s kickoff this holiday season with a routine of giving thanks for everything that makes up our lives.
Live your gratefulness out loud, my friends. Thank you for enriching my life ~ for the sharing, kindness and support you have given to me. I am forever grateful to you.