How do we remain consistently exuberant and exhilarated by life? What is the secret? It’s all about gratitude. It’s about being delighted in the ordinary and surprised and awed by existence — our own and everyone else’s. It’s about sitting around your Holiday table feeling vitally aware and profoundly grateful for every breath and awareness, every bite, every sensation, every bad joke, rewrapped gift and retold story.
Fifty years ago, Abraham Maslow, the father of humanistic psychology, recognized the power of gratitude to recharge the soul: He spoke of the capacity to “appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy, however stale these experiences may have become to others” as a central gift of what he called “self-actualizing individuals.”
When you are in the state of gratitude, you experience a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life, more than simply a pleasant emotion to experience or a polite sentiment to express. It’s an effervescence, a visceral sense of joy and heartfelt connection to life.
Recent psychological research shows that:
1. People who are experiencing gratitude have greater resistance and protection from the destructive impulses of envy, greed and disease.
2. The practice of gratitude as a spiritual discipline may cure excessive materialism and negative emotions of envy, resentment, disappointment, and bitterness;
3. Gratitude supports well-being by displacing resentment, regret, and other low level energies that are deterrents to long-term happiness; and
4. Grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions — happiness, vitality, optimism, and hope — and greater satisfaction with life.
5. Grateful people have a higher level of reverence for life and every living thing.
6. Grateful people have better health and a sense of grace.
One way to make sure you keep gratitude in the forefront of your everyday awareness is to start a gratitude journal, or a gratitude mantra each day. On your way in to work instead of cursing the traffic, think about the fact that you are still here to curse it, that you have just taken a breath of life into your body. Be thankful that you have a multitude of choices, probabilities and possibilities throughout your day and you have the free will to make any of them as you go about creating your own reality. Think about the fact that you have the opportunity to tell those you love how much they mean to you while you are still here.
Think about the fact that you still have time; time to set things straight, make things right and express appreciation for all that this life has affords you. The sunsets. The dawn. The crimson and pale pink of a rose. The scent of aspen and fir on the mantel. Your friend’s laughter ringing through the air. The lights twinkling on the tree. The touch of your beloved. The crisp morning air. The sound of fine music. The taste of great food. The feel of silk slipping. The unconditional love of your child or your pet. The moments of true connection. The joy of new truths. The ecstasy in new awareness. Old photographs. New friends. Making history. The last bow. Pumpkin pie. The warmth of a fire. Old flannel shirts. New flannel shirts. Every breath. Every breath. Every breath. We have so much for which to be grateful.
One of things for which we are most grateful, is you. You give us a reason for being, for writing for telling our stories and truths. You give us a reason for reaching out and touching, beyond the distance into your homes and hopefully, your hearts. . You help us create a sense of community and caring. So, this Holiday, no doubt, one of the things the Arizona Together Family will be most grateful for is you. We hope your holiday season is filled with wonder and magnificent moments of gratitude.
© Dr. Dina Bachelor Evan 2013
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