“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, 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
The single most important, most widely applicable tool for fulfilled living is gratitude. It celebrates and savors our good times. It softens and helps heal the bad times. Gratitude is a habit no one is too young or too old to cultivate. Gratitude fits into any cultural, economic, religious, political or social ideology. It has no harmful side affects. It’s free. It’s instantly accessible. Gratitude is contagious. The more I use it, the more it grows. The more it grows, the better I feel. Gratitude is a no-tech app that recognizes
more and more of the good that surrounds and touches me. It keeps me healthfully humble during those glorious moments of torrential accolades. It fosters warm feelings of connection to places, things, events and other people.
Giving thanks is such a powerful antidote for any negative feeling I recommend using it every day. It always works. And I mean always, a word I very rarely use, but in this case always is 100% accurate. Gratitude is a universal panacea for every distressful feeling without denying or suppressing painful emotions, an unhealthy practice I too frequently engage.
A Daily Habit
At our family Thanksgiving table we take turns speaking of at least one thing each of us feels grateful for. Perhaps that can be a beginning of daily expressions of gratitude, which I guarantee upgrades anyone’s quality of life. I recommend making it a consistent habit. Think of as many genuine gratitudes as you can while brushing your teeth every morning. Put a reminder post-it or ribbon or rubber band on your toothbrush in order to get the habit established. Start simple with the obvious appreciation for teeth, muscular coordination, indoor plumbing, potable water, sturdy feet, ankles, knees, legs or your walker or wheel chair.
Car time can be used for gratitude time. Put a reminder visual on your steering wheel, dash or rearview mirror that catches your attention amidst the busyness of getting from here to there. I brainstorm gratitudes using the alphabet. “I’m grateful for being Able to drive. I’m grateful for the Beautiful scenery here in chateau county. I’m grateful for this safe reliable Car. I am grateful for Dazzling sunshine flooding the landscape.” Or use categories such as naming all the people you’re grateful to have in your life. Another category might be the cars you’ve enjoyed owning. How about everything you appreciate about your home? Your health? Your last vacation? Your pet(s)? Your neighborhood? Work? Friends? Family? Hobbies? Nature?
Gratitude softens my heart and strengthens my power. Its effects are cumulative. The more I use it the more it helps. Decades ago, from my concealed angry inner life, I could barely splutter thoughts of gratefulness because most of what I felt was the legions of dismal disappointment and loneliness that filled my awareness as I conducted my superlative life of service. It seemed such an absurdity, so irrelevant, to spend energy on reciting gratitudes. Yet, in spite of the anger overlaying my initial efforts, gratitude has indeed worked its miracles in my life. No one is exempt from gratitude’s benefits. No one.
Simple, Yet Powerful
Why does such a simple thought process heal so powerfully? One reason is that, no matter how lamely or reluctantly or resentfully, focusing on gratitude changes the channel to a better neurological program. Change your thinking change your life is a truth. Thoughts influence the production of bodily chemicals, which constitute our cellular environment. Love chemicals displace stress chemicals and everything runs easier and better.
Appreciate What’s Positive
Are you feeling distress around a friend or loved one? Whatever the predominating negative emotion, and however great the magnitude of that emotion may be begin thinking through an alphabet of gratitudes. Nothing is too inconsequential or too superficial to qualify as a focal point for appreciation. There is only one rule. Refrain from expressing gratitude for what the person is not or for what they do not do.
Here’s a real example using a little shadow humor. A relative always interrupts any description of distress I’m sharing by abruptly declaring some insensitive broad statement such as “That was a dumb thing to do” or “You should have known better!” I feel like I’m being harshly scolded. I would not formulate a gratitude that “at least this relative is using only verbal abuse and not a lethal weapon.” My genuine gratitude may start with purely physical attributes like, “beautiful blue eyes” and “lovely teeth” moving to “ingenious computer skills” and “talented grill chef.” A few more gratitudes and the sting of a moment’s phone conversation fades as I intend to direct my future sharing with this relative into subject matter that feels safer for me.
In other words, to be mentally and physiologically effective the gratitude search engine pursues only positives, not “it-could- have-been-worse scenarios.” Seek a channel change that’s totally positive and the result is that distress softens enough to open possibilities for better understanding. At the very least, this gratitude process buys a time-out preventing impulsive and often regretful reaction.
Thanksgiving has become the theme of this month, not just one day. I say it deserves daily if not 24/7 attention. What percentage of your texting and emailing focuses on gratitude? Those technological communication habits have claimed a significant part of your life. Your conscious choices led to their development as lifestyle habits. What would happen to our quality of life on this planet if everyone habitually used at least 5% of their time to express gratitude? I’m grateful for your consideration of this possibility.