Author: Marcia Ullett/Tuesday, February 4, 2014/Categories: Spirituality, Recovery Lifestyles
When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance
There’s something very special about gratitude. It can change
everything in life. Why is that? Is it magic? You could say that it’s magic
because of the way it can transform us – the way we think, the way we behave,
and ultimately the way we feel. A regular practice of gratitude is so simple and
yet it has amazing positive outcomes. So if you ask me, it’s the closest thing
to magic. Small acts of gratitude can help us to develop a more expansive and
positive view of our lives.
Gratitude can simplify life by putting things into perspective. Life
sometimes has a way of throwing us into a tailspin. We get scared and confused.
We feel the need to control, and often there’s just no real way to do that. So
what do we do? One possibility is to step back and look at things through a
longer lens. No one is born grateful. We need to learn how to develop our
gratitude, how to expand it so that we’re able to increase our ability to
Negative emotions like jealousy and fear can’t stand up to gratitude.
You know the old expression, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”? Ordinarily,
I’d say that’s pretty accurate. Not so when it’s pitted against gratitude. It’s
pretty hard to feel anger or greed when you’re making a gratitude list or
thanking someone for something wonderful they’ve done for you.
As a child, I never even thought about gratitude. In fact, it was
never mentioned in our house. Imagine my surprise and delight when I realized
the immense power and grace of having a gratitude practice. It took a while; at
first I struggled with it. I remember that when I initially began to think
about it, I had so many problems that I thought I had nothing to be grateful
for. Was I wrong! As I began to understand how each of us has something to be grateful for, my eyes
opened to a whole new way of being in this world. I even looked back at my
childhood and realized that I had so much for which to be grateful when I was
growing up. What I didn’t have was the knowledge that gratitude is one of the
truly great tools on this planet.
Trust me, I know how difficult this journey through life can be. I
know that sometimes it seems like struggling through mud, like there’s darkness
all around and no glimpse of light anywhere. Sometimes the challenges are
heavy, and we’re not sure we can cope. It is for this reason, if for no other,
that gratitude can be so helpful on our journey. Gratitude is one of the most
powerful emotions we have. It’s like a light saber that can cut through the
darkness. The thing about gratitude is that it works from time to time, but it’s
more amazing as a tool when we use it regularly. What I’m talking about is a practice of gratitude. If we can get in
the habit of having a regular gratitude practice, we can grasp the immense
results this can bring to our lives.
Gratitude was not always a part of psychology. Around the year 2000,
gratitude began to be studied in psychology. Prior to that, psychology was
focused mostly on distress rather than taking the more positive emotions into
account. Gratitude is a also facet of Positive Psychology. Studies now indicate
that the expression of gratitude can increase our sense of satisfaction,
happiness, and optimism. It tends to boost our mood and raise self-esteem.
Dr. Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on
gratitude, speaks of it as “an affirmation of goodness in the world,” and “a
relationship-strengthening emotion.” Studies
by Emmons and his colleague Michael McCullough suggest gratitude strengthens
the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, and
makes us less bothered by aches and pains. Sounds good to me. And there’s more.
who cultivate gratitude in their lives tend to sleep better, taking less time to fall asleep and feeling more refreshed upon
awakening. When I first became aware of this I decided to meditate on all that
I have to be grateful for whenever I couldn’t sleep. It really works, and I
seem to wake up in a good mood.
Let us be grateful
to people who make us happy; they
are the charming
gardeners who make our souls blossom.
Focusing on gratitude enhances our sense of
connectedness to others in our world. Being grateful for and nurturing our
friendships builds more solid and deeper friendships. Paying attention to what
someone has given to you and being certain to express gratitude for it benefits
both of you. Likewise, being of service to someone else makes both people feel
good. Being aware of the qualities we appreciate in the people we love helps to
deepen the love. Surrounding ourselves with others who are grateful enriches
our relationships and our lives.
When I became conscious of what a happy and
warm feeling I get when someone takes the time to appreciate something I’ve
done – however small that thing is – I realized that I could give that same
feeling to others, just by telling them how grateful I am for what they have
done. Being of service to others and appreciating the service of others is now
a regular part of my gratitude practice.
Challenging situations also can provide us with
moments of gratitude. We get to be grateful for what we can learn from them. We
get to be grateful for the fact that they will pass, especially if we remember
all that we have to celebrate in our lives every day, not just when things are
going well. In fact, in his article entitled “How Gratitude Can Help You
Through Hard Times”, Dr. Emmons talks about how crisis can lead us to greater
gratitude, and gratitude can help us cope with crisis. He suggests that we remember
the bad times, the times when we experienced trauma, lost a relationship, or
experienced financial difficulties. Remembering those times reminds us that we
can be grateful for having got through them. They were tough, but here we are –
remembering them from where we are now.
The important thing about gratitude is that
it’s best if we live within it, not just dabbling in it from time to time.
Keeping a daily gratitude journal is my personal favorite way to stay in
gratitude. Another way is to sit quietly, thinking about each and every part of
our lives that makes us feel grateful. If ever you are stuck and having
difficulty feeling it, act as if you’re grateful, and your thoughts and
feelings will eventually follow. This behavioral approach not only helps us to
reframe our thoughts and feelings but also teaches us a personal tool that we
can use whenever we need it, building our feelings of gratitude the more we use
it. Practicing gratitude regularly helps change the way our brain neurons fire in
more positive patterns.
At times our own
light goes out and is rekindled by a spark
person. Each of us has cause to think with deep
gratitude of those
who have lighted the flame within us.
The more we think about what we’re grateful for
and let the people in our lives know how much we appreciate them and how truly
grateful we are for having them in our lives the more we get to let them know
that they make a difference to us. This powerful little tool is like magic. It’s so easy to do, and
its consequences are so far reaching.
question then arises: If it’s so terrific
and life-changing, why don’t more people practice gratitude? Perhaps the
answer to that question lies in our culture, which has become so materialistic.
Dr. Emmons again: “Seen through the lens
of buying and selling, relationships as well as things are viewed as
disposable, and gratitude cannot survive this materialistic onslaught. The lack
of gratitude is contagious, and is passed from one generation to the next.”
This, however, doesn’t
mean that gratitude isn’t powerful enough to work in our society. I believe it
is and that the more we talk about it, practice it, and pass it on from one
generation to the next, the greater the impact will be. However, it will take
time. We need to ask ourselves, “Is it worth it?”
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