“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie
A Gratitude Attitude
I wonder if there is anything more easily and quickly assimilated than Gratitude. What happens when for a moment you give gratitude for something in your life? Does your face tense or relax? Does your mouth frown or don a slight smile? Do your eyes squint or soften? Does your mind chatter away or are you granted a moment of peace? You could continue this inquiry and go through your entire body asking these same questions. You can see, that when we take a moment to be grateful, we do more than give thanks.
Thousands of miles away from the devastation after hurricane Harvey hit Texas and surrounding areas, I find myself grumbling about the unprecedented hot and humid weather we are having. I’m getting irritable, discontented with yet another hot day, and my mood if fowl. In this fowl mood, I ruminate on my cup half empty. It doesn’t matter what it is, small or seemingly large discomforts or irritations loom over my moment. I am not happy.
In that moment I ignore the beauty around me, forget how lucky I am that I have work that supports me and that I love, and take for granted all the joy, comforts and ease my life affords me. In the face of what has erupted in the southern states these past couple of weeks, feeling guilty, I quickly turn to my gratitude practice.
It’s so easy to forget this one, simple practice that instantaneously changes the entire chemistry of our body/mind/spirit connection. And, the side affects are all positive.
Researchers find the virtues of gratitude include good health. Dr. Michael McCollough, of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Dr. Robert Emmons, of the University of California at Davis, say their initial scientific study indicates that gratitude plays a significant role in a person’s sense of wellbeing.
The following is an excerpt taken from their Gratitude Theory.
McCollough and Emmons were curious about why people involved in their faith seem to have more happiness and a greater sense of well-being than those who aren’t and decided to study the connections. The study required several hundred people in three different groups to keep daily diaries. The first group kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day, while the second group recorded their unpleasant experiences. The last group made a daily list of things for which they were grateful.
The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved. McCollough and Emmons also noted that gratitude encouraged a positive cycle of reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages another.
McCullough says these results also seem to show that gratitude works independently of faith. Though gratitude is a substantial part of most religions, he says the benefits extend to the general population, regardless of faith or lack thereof. In light of his research, McCullough suggests that anyone can increase their sense of wellbeing and create positive social effects just from counting their blessings.
With all the climatic changes, political unrest, and worldwide dis-ease, it’s all to easy lapse into “the critical mind.” We all find ourselves in situations that challenge our attitude of gratitude. However, see the cup half empty, and you’ll make yourself miserable. Practice gratitude, and you’ll ease and possibly illuminate your momentary grumbling. From there, one moment can easily influence the next, and the next, and the next.
Life is a moment-to-moment proposition. We do have a choice.
Live, Love, Laugh with Joy1