Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold rather a large amount of gratitude – Winnie the Pooh
We have so much to be grateful for in this life, yet it takes a lot for the words “thank you” to cross our lips on a consistent basis. The fact that you are reading this means you can see, you are alive, you can comprehend…all important things to be very grateful for. We spend so much of our lives complaining about things around us, or finding faults with other people, or whining about things we don’t have, or in general being unhappy. My daughter, Zoey, passed away at the age of 5 from an inoperable brain tumor. Since she was unable to join her kindergarten class and was going to undergo radiation, we were forced to tell her that she had a boo-boo in her head. One day while driving together, she noticed that I was crying and asked me the reason for my tears. When I told her that I was angry with God for giving her a boo-boo in her head, she said I was missing the point – God didn’t give her the boo-boo, he was taking it away. It was a clear message that in her mind we should be thanking God for helping her with her boo-boo. She passed away 3 months later and God took care of her boo-boo. If a 5-year old with a boo-boo in her head, double-vision and unstable gait, who was going through radiation with a mask on her face could find it in her heart to be grateful, why would it be so hard for the rest of us?
We are conditioned to focus on what’s not working in our lives as against what is. We find a reason to complain about everything that doesn’t meet our arbitrary expectations. It may be the weather, people, God…nothing is off limits. There is a short story I read about a teacher who presented his class with a sheet of paper with a single black dot at the center and asked them to tell him what they could see. The entire class of students, without any exceptions, commented on the black dot. Not one of them wrote about the white sheet of paper. That is how we are conditioned, to see the black dots in our lives and not the beautiful white paper that surrounds it.
We have friends to lean on, families that love us, work that provides us with our livelihood and our financial means, earth that provides us with food, rain to ease the heat, sun’s warmth to ease the chill of winter, the cackle of children to remind us of simpler times…I could go on and on. We essentially have so much to be grateful for. Self-pity is draining and depressing. It creates nothing but negative energy in and around us. We don’t just bring ourselves down, but also the people around us. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the majority of empirical studies indicate a direct association between gratitude and a sense of overall well-being. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at UC Davis, has exhaustively researched the benefits of gratitude. His results showcase the following benefits:
- Physical – stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, better sleep
- Psychological – higher levels of positive emotions, more optimism and happiness
- Social – more helpful, generous and compassionate, more forgiving, less lonely and isolated
Is it easy being thankful when confronted with seemingly suboptimal or bad situations…no it isn’t. But this is where inner attitude comes into play. We can choose to be thankful. We can choose positivity over self-pity. We can choose to stop whining and when we feel the urge to complain, we can say a quiet “thank you” instead to quell the feeling. It takes a lot of very deliberate practice, but it is well worth it. Not giving in to negative thoughts and just thanking the universe (God) for whatever comes our way is a sure-shot recipe for inner peace and happiness. The reasons as I’ve stated earlier are numerous, but without focusing on any one in particular, let’s take a moment today to put all our complaints and concerns on the shelf and just say “thank you”. Let’s choose to live our lives with an attitude of gratitude.