Since sheltering in place started, I have recommitted myself to looking for things to be grateful for every day, even the simplest things. Sometimes, I work to find five things during a particularly frustration or stressful moment; moments which seem to come a little more frequently in these last few months. I remind myself that gratitude is a gift I give myself.
When we offer thanks to the universe, or to another person, we feel as if there are some things going right in our lives, things for which we can be grateful. Gratitude helps us focus on those things going right. The more we practice it the better we will feel. Think of it as the gift that keeps on giving! As you acknowledge what is going right you see that there are more things to be grateful for. Gratitude activates all the layers and levels of your being with the feeling you are truly blessed. The physical and psychological benefits discussed last week multiply the more we practice appreciation.
Research shows us our feelings of appreciation toward another person are a powerful antidote to combat feelings of loneliness. Feelings of loneliness have skyrocketed since the world went into lockdown. Additionally, loneliness can stem from an absence of positive social relationships in our lives, or an abundance of superficial, unfulfilling, and unsupportive social relationships, both types of relationships magnified in our present world. Being grateful to others is an action from the heart—a coming from the heart in an authentic, connective way. Feelings and expressions of appreciation to someone bring into our awareness the valuable qualities in that person, and remind us anew of the good in them. Research in the American Psychological Association’s journal, Emotion found that grateful people saw help from others as being of “more value, more costly to provide, and more altruistically intended.” These folks felt they received more in return than they gave. Their appreciation was “small thanks” for what they had received, and they felt even more grateful, and so more connected to the giver, for those gifts.
A few years ago, I wrote this for a project I was working on:
Gratitude become the conduit for an authentic connection with another person. You are the receiver and giver in the same moment; your happiness made complete when you share your joy. Your kindness invites people to fulfill your wishes more readily and to do so with kindness in return. The encounter replenishes your shared spirit. A heartfelt “thank you” creates a momentary bond and the accumulation of these fleeting moments builds permanent links until one day you have an abundance of loving, helpful, and supportive people in your life. You are no longer alone within your heart, or lonely in your outer world. The oneness with all Life becomes real for you.
Susan Pinker in the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Gratitude is such a powerful catalyst for feeling hale and hearty, it’s a wonder that no one (except greeting-card companies and religious leaders) has found a way to package it.” But I believe there is a way: by keeping a gratitude notebook. Ever since Sarah Ban Breathnach introduced on Oprah The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude, gratitude journals have multiplied like rabbits. Have you ever wondered why? Because they work.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to buy one such journal or notebook—whatever color suits your fancy, either a fancy cloth-bound version, or a new spiral one from the drugstore. Each day, bring the practice of the Gratitude Meditation to a fresh page, and write down five (5) things you are grateful for that day.
Even on days you feel you have nothing to be grateful for (and we will talk about that in a future blog), once you have popped the cap on your gel pen, gifts you have been given from the universe—the perfect parking place, finding your misplaced credit card, successfully fighting off an attack by alien invaders will surface. Gifts from your fellow humans—muffins left on your porch because you were sick yesterday, some smart tech person walking you through how to find a document lost in the computer netherworld, or the dry cleaners returning your wine-stained white blouse in perfect condition; these are things to add to your list. If you stay with this, you will look back at these pages of blessings as a record of how far you have come. You won’t believe your progress. I didn’t. Your children and grandchildren will be grateful to read of your metamorphosis. You might even want to publish your journal or sell it to Hollywood and retire on the royalties. You never know.
One last thought for today: try to write in your journal at about the same time every day. I do not understand exactly the magical mystery of it all, but somehow this routine trains your psyche to tune in and turn on. It works for me and so I pass this suggestion on to you.
Until next time…Be Vibrant!