We have merely one day within the calendar year dedicated to reflecting on gratitude, yet it has been my discovery that gratitude is one of the most powerful shifts we can make toward greater health and happiness. This one day that centers around food and football hardly seems sufficient given that gratitude is the antidote to so many of the ills that plague us as humans and within society.
In the vast majority of people that I see in the clinical setting, it is easy to see that much of the human race drags through long and sometimes tiresome days filled with more obligations and demands than our time, energy and patience can withstand. Others are challenged on a daily basis with illness, pain or failing health. This time of the year is particularly hard for anyone who has endured a loss of any kind, be it a loved one, a job, or their health. Psychologists recognize that the holidays are understandably difficult to navigate when we are missing a loved one. I agree it seems to require superhuman ability to muster gratitude even while feeling a deep sense of loss.
Despite all of this and every good reason to the contrary, our challenge is to develop a spirit of gratitude, despite our current state of affairs. Can we allow our pain and gratitude to co-exist, holding space for both? I believe we must.
For many of us, gratitude is an afterthought reserved for occasions when we receive good news relating to something we hoped for that comes to pass for ourselves or our loved ones. The birth of a child, a new job opportunity or a good health report from the doctor are experiences that easily promote a sense of gratitude.
The true test of character is what we do in moments of pain or disappointment. It is human nature to take for granted the simple blessings we all have and instead to focus instead on what is lacking or what we feel we are missing in our own corner of the world.
The rise and popularity of social media have created a false sense of deprivation and a sense of entitlement.
We view the lives of others through a make believe lens of perfection seeing only the grandeur of their experiences and then proceed to evaluate our own lives based on this highlight reel.
Gratitude can only arise from a present moment acceptance and contentment. Regardless of the current situation, we find ourselves in, gratitude says, “I accept what is”. “It is enough”, and affirms what good can be gleaned even from our disappointment or difficulty. Whenever we are in ‘non-acceptance’ of anything, it is nearly impossible to be grateful.
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”- 1 Thessalonians 5:18
There is scientific evidence supporting the health and psychological benefits of cultivating a grateful spirit. We create our biological internal chemistry with our thoughts and therefore a simple shift in our thinking and how we view a situation can have a significant impact on our health. Research strongly suggests that focusing on gratitude can improve our heart health, our emotional and our physical wellbeing.
Similar to a garden that must be tended to, our minds need to be pruned of the weeds of criticism, judgment, blame, lack, and inadequacy. Since all life abhors a vacuum, while we prune these tendencies, we need to replace them with continual thoughts of thanksgiving and a redirection of our focus to our blessings. We must actively and mindfully shift from focusing on what’s wrong with something, and an attitude of rejecting or defending, to one of acceptance and appreciation. Gratitude alone packs the power to open the channels of health, abundance, peace, and joy.
You cannot be simultaneously angry and grateful, nor can you have a critical spirit and a grateful one at the same time. I challenge you to try.
A spirit of gratitude must be cultivated and practiced daily, even multiple times a day, in order to become our nature and part of our personality.
Today, as we prepare for the upcoming holidays with many obligations and distractions, I will encourage you to invest time in two simple activities that can strengthen your gratitude muscle. The activities like bookends to your day, involve spending time developing gratitude at the start and ending of each day.
Before you get out of bed in the morning, intentionally and visually in your mind’s eye, remind yourself of at least 5 things for which you are thankful. Be as specific as possible. Allow the warmth and peace that accompanies those feelings to blossom, and linger there, savoring them for a few moments. Writing them down is even better as the mind responds strongly to our written words.
Lastly, Reserve the last 10 to 15 minutes of the day to quiet the mind and review the day. If there were any circumstances or situations that you encountered that were less than favorable, ask what you could learn from them. Reflect for a moment on what they can teach you and open up your heart and mind to receive whatever that lesson might be. Then, once again direct your mind to the present moment and reflect on all of the good in your life, reminding yourself that you have much to be grateful for even in the midst of any turbulent or difficult times.
These two simple practices may not be easy at first. Unless you are a naturally grateful person, your mind will gravitate to what is wrong or lacking and will tend to reject what you are suggesting and insist on grumbling instead. Continue anyway and persist in reciting all that you have to be thankful for.
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.”- Maya Angelou
Lastly, I wish all of my friends and family bountiful blessings of health, peace, and joy!
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Join me for a brand new class offered in 2020 entitled: “7 Keys to Managing Pain and Disease and Living ‘Younger’ Longer.”
Date and Time: February 18, 2020, from 1-3 PM @ Grand Learning, SunCity Grand, Surprise, AZ
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