The topic of gratitude has been buzzing for some time fueled by research that’s demonstrated it’s power to not only improve happiness levels but strengthen social
ties, boost self esteem, reduce stress and even resolve old traumas (see the work of Bob Emmons, PhD for more).
The reality is that it takes practice to adopt an “attitude of gratitude,” especially for those who, for whatever reason, see life through a lens that tends towards the negative. Even for those who have a more positive outlook, it can be really easy to let a position of gratitude slip away.
I’d like to share a few touching and poignant thoughts by people around their revelations about gratitude. I suspect there is something in their stories that we all can relate to:
“There are lots of moments I wish I could get back. But since my mom died I do think I am better at helping others, even when I get in a big hurry and am pissed off at people for being slow and wasting my time, like standing at Starbucks in line. You just need to put yourself in that person’s shoes and you will find a nicer, calmer self in no time.”
“A young man in a huge SUV behind me honked when I didn’t respond as quickly as he thought I should at the green light. From there on for the 1.9 miles to the station he repeatedly beeped at me, and when he got a chance passed my car on the right and glared at me. I was taken aback by his short fuse, and for a moment I considered about a hundred ways I could get back at him…not all of them legal. It’s times like that when I often fantasize about becoming invisible and playing pranks like randomly sticking pins in his young toosh as he walked from his car to wherever he was going. Then I stopped and thought about how silly it all was. A half second faster to get through a light wouldn’t have changed his attitude. Letting him control mine was just as fruitless.”
“I am often overscheduled and blame myself and others for not having enough time…but you are absolutely right. I remind myself as much as possible…humanity wins out. Take a deep breath and be present. EVERYBODY has someplace to go…”
“I try to physically break the reverie of negative thoughts by stretching or massaging my temples… anything that reminds me that this is not just a moment in time, but that I am a being with finite physical, mental, and emotional resources and I need to recharge my batteries. It’s not about the stimulus; it’s about how you react to the stimulus. And I also try to remember that it’s human to have the anger and frustration with life…”
“Validate my feelings and failings and life’s frustrations without letting them control the day. You can make a list of all the frustrating things that happened that day or a list of the wonderful things, both lists are true. It’s a matter of choosing your focus.”
“Simply by your awareness and your compassionate posting, the healing has already begun – both for the woman whose life is to be forever altered by brain cancer and for your overscheduled self. I propose that doing whatever enables us to reconnect with our souls – meditation, prayer, dance, yoga, song, hikes, lovemaking, etc. – I think that’s the key. Because, being human, we’ll always have the impulse to run someone over, whether in a car, with our opinions or some other forms of ego; the trick is to see it when it’s happening.”
“Gratitude. We don’t spend enough time reflecting on it. Even with all the losses, surgeries, rough moments my family have gone through over the past 2 years especially, it’s reminders like yours that we are so very, very fortunate. How amazing is this life!! And if we reflect more on what makes us grateful, we might just take the time to smile a bit about it all.”
A great way to start to shift your mind towards an “attitude of gratitude” is to start a daily gratitude practice. At the end of the day, before you go to sleep, ponder a few things that happened that day that were positive and you appreciate. Or you can start a gratitude journal. However you turn towards noticing and taking in the good in this way, find a way to do it. Research has demonstrated it is powerful ally to your emotional health.