Gratitude is a choice, but why would you choose it?
In recent years there have been systematic scientific studies of gratitude and its positive effects. These studies show that grateful people are happier, more open and sociable, less depressed and neurotic and express higher levels of satisfaction with their lives and relationships.
Grateful people also show higher levels of growth and self-acceptance and stronger coping skills for challenges and set-backs.
The ones who carry on with master motivation speaker Zig Ziglar’s “attitude of gratitude” mindset share a greater willingness to seek out help from others. They spend more time planning how to address issues. They demonstrate the ability to interpret challenging events in ways that help them grow.
Here’s the voice of the late Zig Ziglar at his best in a YouTube video published by Thinking Humanity. His anecdote about an unhappy, vitriolic woman who hated her job and what happened to her when she chose gratitude is eye-opening.
“You can’t change other people,” Ziglar points out. “You can only change yourself.”
WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
Here’s another interesting take on gratitude. This “Experiment In Gratitude” You-Tube video was put together by SoulPancake for their “The Science of Happiness” project. It was created by Mike Bernstein and Matt Pittman.
The biggest takeaway from this thing is the thought that the person who was least happy that day experienced the greatest rise in felt happiness. That’s a powerful thing.
SoulPancake is a digital media and production company that “creates content that explores life’s big questions, celebrates humanity, and champions creativity with integrity heart and humor,” it says on their Facebook company overview.
Named one of FastCompany’s Top 10 Most Innovative Video Companies of 2015, they target the “Optimistic Millenial.” Their work has something for all of us, I am thinking.
Among their series of more than thirty assorted video formats are sprightly-named things like “Kid President,” “What She Said,” “Highly Evolved Human,” and “Metaphysical Milkshake.”
They’ve even put out a book, SOULPANCAKE: Chew on Life’s Big Questions, by Rainn Wilson, Devon Gundry, Golriz Lucina and Shabnam Mogharabi.
GRATITUDE GROWS HAPPY
Taking stock of the many people, experiences and things that are good, right and working well in our lives is uplifting.
Apparently, elevating your awareness of what’s right with the world rather than focusing on what’s wrong, you come to realize that happiness really is already right there, all around you.
An attitude of gratitude also has an uncanny way of attracting more good to you. What we focus on grows, and focusing on simple pleasures – on the good we are experiencing here, now, today – can work wonders.
Dave Ramsey has been called “America’s trusted voice on money” and is a bestselling author and radio host. Among his numerous bestselling books is THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness.
In this YouTube video, “Contentment and Gratitude,” Ramsey is doing one of his annual Thanksgiving radio broadcasts. He lays out the arguments for carrying an attitude of gratitude around with you.
As he points out in the video, helping grateful people makes other people happy and they tend to go out of their way to help some more.
WHAT YOU FOCUS ON GROWS
What you focus on grows. You can consciously focus on what you’re thankful for rather than on what frustrates you.
If you maintain positive thoughts and grow a positive mental attitude, if you consistently engage in positive action, then eventually it becomes easier and easier to be a positive person.
Life milestones are great. Hammering your latest goal, receiving some coveted prize, getting rewarded for the hard work you’ve put in, getting that house or car or latest electronic wonder you’ve been drooling over…all of these things are worth celebrating.
However, celebrating these life milestones is not a substitute for a foundation of gratitude that leads us to more consistent happiness.
EXERCISES FOR YOU TO TRY
- MAKE A LIST. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yet another list. Every day (either in the morning when you first get up or in the evening before going to bed), write down three things for which you are grateful. Just three. Every day.
I’ve done it both ways. If you do it in the morning, your day starts out suddenly brighter and more shiny. If you do it just before going to sleep, then sleep comes easier and when you wake up the list is right there waiting to remind you of the good things in your life. A bonus, two-for-the-price-of-one move.
- PUMP OUT THE JUICE. Take the time to express something beyond a generic thank-you. Personalize your authentic gratitude. Share your appreciation for somebody’s unique qualities and their specific impact on your life.
Mix up your heart in it. What comes from the heart will hit another heart. Do that. (It’s a good thing.)
- CELEBRATE THANKSGIVING 365. On his Thanksgiving radio shows, Dave Ramsey asks his callers to share one thing for which they are grateful before they can ask their questions or address their concerns. This “tradition” might be a good thing to try your own self.
Before every evening meal, at the end of the day, whether you are alone or with someone, think on some things for which you’re grateful. If you’re with other people, share your best good thing and get them to share theirs as well.
Ask, “What’s one good thing that happened today? What are you grateful for?”
Make it a ritual. It will go a long way to help diffuse the stresses of the day and to reconnect to each other as well as help prepare your bodies to enjoy the food before you. (After all, as some guy in yet another lab coat will probably tell you, bodies that are relaxed digest food better.)
Here’s a poem:
Hanging ten on the edge of dissolution,
Staring into the maw of the Creative Dark, pō panopano.
Sitting here almost brain-dead and drained,
I got to thinking how the other people in my life
Have shaped me, helped me shape my world.
It is a good thought,
Makes me want to throw my fist up in the air,
A warrior’s salute and celebration.
Makes me want to dance on the edge again.
Gives me heart.
I bless them all, those people….
I bless the loving people in my life
The ones who helped smooth my way,
The warm and generous ones,
The ones who were kind.
I bless the strong people in my life,
The ones who kept their promises,
The ones who let me lean on their strength,
The self-sufficient ones, the peaceable ones.
I bless the good people in my life,
Most wondrous of all the gifts
From this old Universe.
On the edge of the void,
They make me smile.
by Netta Kanoho
Header photo credit: “Thank You All” by Don McCullough via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0], a 2015 farewell picture and thank-you to all of his Flickr fans.
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