In-Between the Pages: Gratitude

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Gratitude is the spots of sunshine we find in the shadows that others create. (Image: Shawn Ward)

We make less and less room for gratitude in ourselves or for gratitude to be present in what we enjoy. I wanted to really post this on Thanksgiving, but thought a post-Thanksgiving was more appropriate so I could spend the time after the weekend was over to reflect on all that had transpired. Bottom line we need to force ourselves to pay attention to the good things in our lives that we take for granted. Once they are gone, they are usually gone. What’s even worse, we can fall into these patterns that we may never get out of that will tear us apart.

Gratitude goes far beyond just “please” and “thank you,” or the necessities of social interaction we experience during the holiday season. It’s more like a North Star with which to guide your life by. All the latest research suggests that by practicing gratitude in your daily life redresses stress, reduces depression, and delivers more satisfaction to our relationships.

In fact, Robert Emmons, one of the first modern Positive Psychologist to scientifically study the impacts of gratitude proposes that we cannot experience two emotions at one time. Here’s what he has to say:

”You cannot be grateful and resentful at the same time, or forgiving and vengeful. When we are savoring the moment we cannot be regretting the past.”

I personally have experienced this. With a negative attitude I find I have nothing to be really happy about, it will consume me when I let it. That negative emotion can hardly lend any room to let what I could be positive about, have an opportunity to take root. Same thing with pondering my past for to long. Once I over analyze the past I find I get stuck in it and have a hard time letting what the possibility of the future could have room to be explored. In that mode, I am destined to relive the past over and over again. It can become cyclical and a really bad place to live especially if you are leading others to become better versions of themselves.

As much as we like to multitask as a culture, you cannot multitask emotions, just like you cannot multitask other skills. So, if you move through your day with gladness versus madness, there will be no room for madness to take hold of your day.

Brother David Steindl-Rast in a TED Talk on the very topic in 2013 titled “Want to be happy? Be grateful” proposes that:

“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful; it is in fact gratefulness that makes us happy.”

You need to be able to remove yourself from the fast paced world that surrounds you to gain perspective. So here’s a great way to do it that I have found to gain the perspective you need and you can do it in 60 seconds.

STOP. LOOK. GO.

That simple. Huh? Really?

That’s literally all you have to do. Stopping to gain perspective for even just a minute of breathing is an incredible way to practice stop, look, go muscles.

I’ll wrap it up with this from David:

“There is a wave of gratefulness because people are becoming aware how important this is and how this can change our world. It can change our world in immensely important ways, because if you’re grateful, you’re not fearful, and if you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. If you’re grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people, and you are respectful to everybody, and that changes this power pyramid under which we live.”

Here’s the Ted Talk:

https://www.ted.com/talks/david_steindl_rast_want_to_be_happy_be_grateful 

If you’d like to take a time out and watch it, it’s a great 15 minutes, hang out for the whole thing.

The one thing I could say we all have in common to echo David’s sentiments, we all want to be happy. Hope you were able to find that over the weekend. If not, this week is a new week and a new chance to start differently.

Take care and always, I am grateful for having the opportunity to reach out to you all.

– Shawn

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