Live your life on purpose . . .

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Have an Attitude of Gratitude!


It’s pretty easy to feel on top of the world when things are going our way. We are able to experience satisfaction when our needs are met, when we feel appreciated and loved, and when we are able to move through life with ease. The trouble is, no one completely dodges pain and suffering, no matter how fortunate their circumstances may seem. Complaints arise, emotions such as anger or bitterness edge their way in, and in extreme instances, a sense of hopelessness replaces former contentment. Suddenly, life seems like a drag.

Experts tell us that it’s important to our happiness that we practice gratitude, but how is that possible when we feel that the universe has us under attack? Might be easier to just hide under the covers at home for a few days until troubles subside. But that’s not realistic either. There’s a better way, if we are willing to develop a new mindset regarding difficult situations. What I mean to say is that, it’s entirely possible to look at problems as a means for teaching us lessons in gratitude. Before you decide that I’m making no sense, hear me out. Some key points regarding gratitude are as follows:
  1. The practice of gratitude can be learned. While it’s true that most humans are pretty selfish, it is possible to step outside ourselves and focus on the world around us. We can mindfully look around and see others whose circumstances are much worse. This might help us put our troubles in perspective and feel less negative about them. Even more importantly, however, we might even begin to see how our troubles can sharpen our life skills in a way that constant success cannot.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  2. Demonstrating thankfulness in one’s life can increase levels of joy and connection to others. Giving the gift of appreciation and returning kindness to someone else acknowledges them as an important being. We all have a basic need to experience that from others, and we all benefit from knowing that we have reached out to another person. It just feels good to put a smile on someone’s face, after all.                                                                                                                  
  3. Gratitude is good for our minds and bodies. Studies have shown that practicing it decreases blood pressure, strengthens the immune system, reduces anxiety and depression, and enhances relationships. Apparently, it works even better than the latest dietary supplement or superfood!
There are many easy ways to get started strengthening your gratitude muscle, but one idea I recently came across is that of creating a “Gratitude Box”. In her book entitled More Language of Letting Go, Melody Beatty suggests taking one slip of paper for each problem one is currently experiencing, another slip of paper for everything/everyone you are worried about, and yet another for persons you wish to bless (both loved ones and those you resent!). Put these slips in a small box, then spend a few moments each day giving thanks for everything in the box, or take out one slip of paper at a time and give thanks for that. Leave the box where you can see it every day, as a continual reminder that practicing gratitude can change your way of looking at your situation. Give it a try. Soon, you will see how much having an attitude of gratitude can transform your life!

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