Much has been written about the power of gratitude both in terms of physical health benefits, and emotional well-being. Two psychologists, Dr. Robert Emmons and Dr. Michael McCullough, have done much research on gratitude and their research shows that people who keep gratitude lists are even more likely to make progress toward important personal goals in a two-month period compared to subjects who don’t.
Gratitude is a Process
However when you are struggling, feeling grateful may be difficult. Thanksgiving may compound your sense of shame that you don’t feel thankful. So move into giving thanks gradually by first expressing compassion –for you and for others. Take a moment to pause and send this meditation to someone who you want to hold in your heart and then send it to yourself.
Buddhist Meditation for Compassion:
May you be held in compassion.
May your pain and sorrow be eased.
May you be at peace.
I’m sending this to my dad who faces a grueling six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, and to my friend who faces a stem cell transplant in January. I also send it to me who at times feels lost in grief and helpless.
Now take a moment to acknowledge yourself for standing up straight even if you feel crumpled. Acknowledge that you get up each day with the idea you will contribute in some way. Great strides are comprised of baby steps.
You are now ready to ease into gratitude. Start out by thanking whatever Power you believe in for giving you the strength to keep showing up. Then, identify all the people who you are grateful to have in your life.
Here are some of mine:
- Friends in Seattle and Connecticut who have stood by me through thick and thin.
- My family
- Each repairperson who showed up on time and didn’t overcharge me the first winter that I was alone.
- Jim at Lyons Gulf who told me not to buy the used Volvo I was considering and sure enough – it broke down on the test drive.
- My handyman, Charlie, who showed no sign of contempt when he fixed my “broken” electric edger (I had assembled it upside down).
Gratitude is a Practice
Gratitude, as a good friend of mine says, “Is a practice that takes practice.” Each day consider what is working in your favor. It may simply be that you are alive, or that you have a place to live, or that it was sunny that day. You can note the same thing each day if that is what is true for you. Eventually, you will be able to add to the list. For now, just start a list and be intentional about what in your life is positive. You might try visiting www.gratefulness.org.
Use this Thanksgiving holiday to kick-start your new gratitude habit.
Wishing you peace,