Maribeth Doerr

a beacon of light

Healing Gratitude – It’s Easier than You Think

on November 14, 2012

Definition of gratitude from dictionary.com:
Noun:  the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.

Definition of grateful from dictionary.com:
Adjective:  warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful

In the United States, November is the month of Thanksgiving, a time to celebrate our abundance (usually in the form of eating too much).  Many of us don’t even think about it the other 364.25 days of the year.  So, since it’s the season of thankfulness, let’s take a few minutes to consider how gratitude merits more consideration than just one meal or one day per year.

If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s easy to take things for granted. So often life gets in the way and it hampers our ability to see all our blessings, especially the smaller ones.  Research proves, however, that gratitude can shift your focus in powerful healing ways.  Thinking about the blessings in your life (the glass being half full) shifts your focus away from what you don’t have, and how many of us are so consumed and worried about what we don’t have?!  We don’t have enough . . . (fill in the blank).

I don’t have enough money . . . I don’t have enough love . . .  I don’t have enough friends . . . I don’t have enough time . . . I don’t have enough shoes . . . I don’t have enough tv channels . . . I don’t have enough nail polish . . . I don’t have enough . . .

That voice telling you that you don’t have enough can be rather insidious!  Let’s give that voice a rest.  Let’s shift our perspective a bit.  When you think about what you DO have, you stay in the present moment.  Robert Emmons, Ph.D. is a positive psychologist and the author of Thanks!  How the new science of gratitude can make you happier.  He explains how important and even liberating staying in the present moment is: “By appreciating the gifts of the moment, gratitude frees us from past regrets and future anxieties.  By cultivating gratefulness, we are freed from envy over what we don’t have or who we are not.  It doesn’t make life perfect, but with gratitude comes the realization that right now, in this moment, we have enough, we are enough.”

Read that quote again and let it sink in.  Doesn’t that feel good?  Dr. Emmons’ research shows that people who cultivate gratitude are 25% happier than those who don’t.  That may not sound like much but who doesn’t want to be 25% happier?!  Happier people are healthier people.  Happier people are resilient people.  Resilient people tend to experience less depression and stay physically healthier.

We’ve all heard how stress can ruin health.  I’m the poster child for how stress can wreak havoc on your body!  Practicing gratitude is one of the best stress busters.  Remember that 25% happier stat?

Cultivating and practicing gratitude isn’t difficult.  Most gratitude experts recommend keeping a gratitude journal.  Since I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal consistently, I’ve noticed the changes in my attitude and as cheesy as it sounds, in my heart.  Every night when I go to bed, I write down five things I’m grateful for that day.  Sometimes, they’re big things but most often they’re small things such as . . . My heater is working tonight when it’s so cold outside.  Or . . . I’m grateful my husband cooked dinner.  I’ve even written, “I’m glad this day is finally over so I can start fresh tomorrow.”  When I’m feeling especially blue and thinking I have nothing to be grateful for, I grab my journal and thumb through it, reading all the things I’ve been grateful for.  Even during my darkest days (I’ve had a lot of them in the last year), I manage to find something, however small, to express my thanks for in my little gratitude journal.  Some days, it might take me 15 minutes to think of five things to write down but I always get there.  I’ve even mentioned the color of a rose in my front yard that I love!  It doesn’t HAVE to be a big thing.  Being grateful for the little things is a perfect way not to take anything for granted.

No matter what life has tossed out at you this last year, a little thought will uncover something, someone, or someplace to be thankful for. Cultivating gratitude is one way of noticing everything.  Beauty and joy becomes more vivid, and as this gladness starts to grow in your heart, you’ll start to notice the healing (yes, healing!) that gratitude brings.

Start to cultivate your gratitude attitude during this season of Thanksgiving.  It’s a great way to plant that seed and keep it growing through the holiday season and on into the new year.  Let go of the lack mentality; your glass really is half full.

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7 responses to “Healing Gratitude – It’s Easier than You Think

  1. I love this, Maribeth! Especially that you share your less-than-pom-pom-shakin’ times of gratitude, this made me smile big:

    “I’m glad this day is finally over so I can start fresh tomorrow.” –

    why? who knows – maybe just because it’s REAL; an attempt to use your gratitude journal even when you’re not feeling zippy (something I can relate to).

    Love, love, love that you included links to more info!!! And YAY for 25% happier – I’m all for that!

  2. Ada says:

    Maribeth – This is so beautiful! and so, so true! I wish I could have helped my mother understand this years ago. She was always so unhappy and, from the time I was a kid, I always believed it was because she focused on everything she didn’t have and never appreciated what she did have (like me :)). There have certainly been times when it has been very hard to keep a positive outlook at times, but I’ve learned that once I resume focusing on, and appreciate, what is good in my life, it is blissfully addictive and provides so much happiness and inner strength that I never want to lose that focus.
    Thank you so much for helping us all remember that…and appreciate (with gratitude) that we have learned to do so. The best aspect of this is that my sweet Alex has told me so many times these last few years (in college) that doing so has helped her manage many otherwise-difficult problems and she is grateful that I have shown her how to do this.
    LOTS of hugs to you!

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