Science tells us that practicing gratitude has many health benefits, like feeling less lonely and building a stronger immune system. So why is it sometimes difficult for us to feel grateful? Why do we sometimes have a hard time saying thank you, when one of the byproducts of gratitude is joy, a positive emotion that is much easier to sustain than the fleeting happiness we feel when we get what we want.
As Lynne Twist says in her interview with Brother David Stiendl-Rast, “We can bring joy to anything; Happiness must be pursued.” When viewed this way, being joyful seems much less energy intensive than the never-ending hunt for happiness.
What stops you from feeling grateful? I know I sometimes have trouble trusting in my good fortune. If this is a struggle you share with me, try finding gratitude in “safe” things, like the feeling of holding a warm cup of coffee on a cold morning, or the fact that you were able to cuddle with a beloved pet for a few minutes.
Fear is another emotion that puts up a wall against gratitude and keeps us wanting more. If you are feeling fearful about having enough money, losing a loved one, or the state of the environment, take a few slow, deep breaths, you are in good company, but this company that could use some relief! Exhale completely, and take a look at where you have influence. The smallest act of assistance to someone in need can help you feel less fearful and a bit more in control, allowing you the space to feel grateful.
I find the emerging adults I work in my private practice are sometimes hesitant to express gratitude because they are trying to establish independence. When we are trying to make it on our own, it can feel like a failure to ask for and receive help, and expressions of gratitude can trigger shame. If this is your situation, remember that asking for help is an important life skill. Try you best to say thanks, then Express your gratitude by envisioning the day when you can give back.
Make gratitude your mindfulness practice this week. If you need help with boosting your gratitude skills, consider joining the gratefulness.org eCourse hosted by Lynne Twist and Brother David Stiendl-Rast.
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