Why Gratitude Matters
I've been thinking about gratitude lately. I have made a conscious decision to practise it more, and wow! it's easy to fall off the wagon. I spend a fair amount of time on the computer (writing newsletters, among other things!) and more than my fair share of time gritting my teeth and railing against the inconsistencies of technology. Ah, goes my interior dialogue, I miss the days before computers! Of typewriters and black home phone landlines with rotary dials (if you remember those you're definitely dating yourself:). If I wanted to know something, I couldn't just "Google" it and come up with 1.23 million entries on the subject; I had to go into a different room and grab the encyclopedia (remember those?).
Now, it seems I spend my days waiting for my computer to respond...really, it's usually only a minute or so for that screen to pop up - has my attention span really become so short? Or trying to figure out the latest app, or some minor glitch has frozen my computer and lo! I'm gritting and gnashing my teeth and my heart is beating faster and I'm ready to punch something - really? At these moments, I try to remember to pause, take a breath (and maybe a walk), and remember what I'm grateful for.
There are so many important things. Beautiful home. Loving family. Caring friends. Awesome friendly neighbours. Adorable pets. Good health. Work that I love (oh, that one took 35 years to figure out, so lots to be grateful for there!). The seedlings in my sunny dining room window, sprouting their tiny green wings and bravely waiting to be transplanted outdoors in warmer weather. And technology glitches serve to remind me to remember.
What's so great about gratitude and why do we want to practise it? Robert Emmons, who has been researching gratitude for over a decade, suggests that people who practise gratitude regularly benefit in many ways.
• Stronger immune systems
• Less bothered by aches and pains
• Lower blood pressure
• Exercise more and take better care of their health
• Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
• Higher levels of positive emotions
• More alert, alive, and awake
• More joy and pleasure
• More optimism and happiness
• More helpful, generous, and compassionate
• More forgiving
• More outgoing
• Feel less lonely and isolated.
When I reflect on all the things to be grateful for, the list seems endless. We can be grateful for the gift of life, for our capacity to offer our love, our wisdom, to shine our light for others. How are some of our challenges helping us to grow and develop into more caring, compassionate persons? When I consider my past and present challenges, I'm grateful for them. As Robert Emmons says, "with gratitude comes the realization that we get more than we deserve." As the world fills up with more technological wonders and I struggle with keeping up, I'm grateful to be here, and grateful for the opportunity to learn - technology glitches and all!
To practise, you can keep a gratitude journal, noting even the small things you are grateful for; count your blessings every morning; or use a concrete reminder such as a "gratitude jar" where you drop your coins into a jar while remembering what you are grateful for. (And when you've saved up enough money for that trip you've always wanted to take, you'll be doubly grateful! :):)
And you can meditate, even for a few minutes on a day. The more we practise something, physical or mental, the better we get at it. Starting May 9, I'm offering a free mini-meditation challenge (just 10 minutes a day). You can sign up here.
And now, I'd love to hear from you. What are you grateful for? Does practising gratitude seem like a good way to live? Please leave a comment below.
Donna offers a holistic perspective on the relationship and healing of physical and emotional pain.