I’ve written about gratitude before, but can we focus too much on gratitude? This past Saturday, was a great day. Despite heavy wildfire smoke and ash falling on us, there was a lot going on in Missoula and we were all stir crazy enough to be out and about in the smoke enjoying it. We had a big college football game in town, and all the people that go along with such an event; we had our yearly Roots Festival with streets closed off downtown and lots of great, free music; and to top it off friend’s had the perfect backyard gathering. It was a day of visiting with lots of friends in both quiet and loud atmospheres, art friends, music friends, sports friends, etc. That night as I was in bed, preparing to fall asleep, I quietly asked myself what I was grateful for at that moment. Research shows that feeling grateful gives us more joy and happiness; lowers our blood pressure; improves the strength of our immune systems; and helps us act with more generosity and compassion.
You can find even more out about the science of gratitude at the following links:
- Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude from the Greater Good Science Center at UC, Berkely
- And if you do a google search for 'gratefulness research' you'll find info from any possible resource you could want.
Usually it’s simple, “I’m grateful for my home, my husband, fresh air, or the kale growing in my garden.” But, this time my mind went in a different direction. I found myself thinking bigger. Thinking, “I’m grateful for the diversity of people I interact with on a daily basis. I’m grateful I have friends, peers, acquaintances, past coworkers, etc. of different ages; male and female; from different cultural and geographic backgrounds; gay and straight; people with different political ideals; different religious and spiritual beliefs; those who love sports and those who don’t care about sports; those who love live music and those for whom the radio is live enough; people I disagree with on a few things in life and people I disagree with a lot.” Just like most people, I tend to gravitate toward those with whom I have common thoughts, but I am grateful for those people that help me gain perspective on other viewpoints. Those who are willing to have hard conversations that help both of us grow and learn. Even when I still don’t agree, by understanding their viewpoints, the feeling of me versus them is less, and the feeling of how interconnected we all are increases. Recognizing all of this and acknowledging how grateful I am really did increase my joy and my optimism. It did increase my compassion toward others and it helped me breath just a little easier, even with the smoke in the air. I acknowledge that my feelings are not very scientific, but I encourage you to try it and see if it works for you!
Do you have a minute right now? Instead of putting it off till later, take this moment to feel grateful, whether it’s for the little things or the big things. Sit upright in your chair with both feet on the ground, resting your hands lightly in your lap – move them away from the keyboard. Gently close your eyes or gaze lightly out the window and sitting with your breath, feeling the inhale and the out breath, just allow yourself to sense what you are grateful for right now - even if it's coffee. Feel that gratefulness as it spreads throughout the body traveling with the breath, like a hidden internal smile spreading into all areas of your body. Sit like that for a few breaths, then exhale, open your eyes or move them back to the screen and get back to your day.
Gratitude Apps and actions:
- http://thnx4.org/ - A gratitude journal that you can share or keep private and by doing it and answering their questions you help with research on gratitude.
- http://getgratitude.co/ - A gratitude journal app for the iphone.
- In addition to keeping a Gratitude Journal, or instead of keeping a journal, you can choose to actively show your gratitude by sending ‘thank you’ or ‘I’m thinking of you’ cards. And it is perfectly fine to just mentally ask yourself about your gratitude, like I do as I crawl into bed.