As we enter the new year, you may be feeling a gamut of emotions from peace and happiness to distress and sadness. This year especially, many are struggling financially or simply feeling pessimistic about the economy. Others are struggling with health or relationship challenges.
A Daily Resolution for Change
Regardless of where you find yourself on the spectrum, being appreciative and thankful is a great way to start the new year and an opportunity to move toward greater wellness. When I am in need of healing or a change in my life, the first thing I try to remember to do is to focus on what I am truly grateful for.
I think most of us have made New Year’s resolutions in the past with the intention of creating positive changes in our lives. Unfortunately, many of us have not followed through with those resolutions nor created lasting change in our lives.
In my experience a far better solution for change is to cultivate a daily attitude of gratitude. If you don’t already have a gratitude journal, I recommend starting one and adding to it each and every day. Ideally, you already have a list of things you’re grateful for in your head and perhaps you have written some of those down.
If you decide to keep a journal, remember that habits are usually formed within three to four weeks. With a bit of focus, gratitude tends to take on a life of its own. Over time you will find a more positive (and less stress-inducing) attitude will become more automatic.
What Are You Thankful For?
Even in difficult times, there is always something to be grateful for, such as the breath of life, our heart beat, the blessings of family, friends, pets, sunshine, water, food, or any number of things we usually take for granted. Begin by simply allowing yourself (as best you can) to fully welcome the feeling of thankfulness in your heart for the simple things.
Another way to cultivate gratitude is to simply accept whatever is manifesting in your life right now, whether “good” or “bad.” This means letting go of dissatisfactions and even the desire to change. I know this sounds contradictory, but oftentimes the wanting to change creates negative feelings that can block inspired solutions. The more you can let go of resistance to what is, the more you can feel grateful for what you already have.
And if you need more inspiration, the following vignettes (which have been widely circulated on the internet) can help put things into perspective and remind us of what we have to be thankful for:
1. If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75 percent of the people in the world.
2. If you can attend a church or synagogue meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death, you are more blessed than 3 billion people in the world.
3. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are more blessed than 500 million people in the world.
4. If you have money in the bank, money in your wallet, and spare change in a dish, you are among the top 8 % of the world’s wealthy.
5. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.
Benefits of a Grateful Disposition
Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California Davis, is engaged in a research project on the nature of gratitude and its potential consequences for human health and well-being. Here is just a sampling of what they have discovered thus far:
• Well-Being: Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.
• Prosociality: People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others. They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks.
• Spirituality: Grateful people are more likely to acknowledge a belief in the interconnectedness of all life and a commitment to and responsibility to others. Gratitude does not require religious faith, but faith enhances the ability to be grateful.
• Materialism: Grateful individuals place less importance on material goods. They are less likely to judge their own and others’ success in terms of possessions accumulated. They are less envious of others and are more likely to share their possessions with others relative to less grateful persons.
The Healing Power of Gratitude
Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto’s work with water also reveals the healing power of gratitude. Using high-speed photography, Emoto discovered that when thoughts, feelings, or words of gratitude were directed toward water, the most beautiful and the most intricate of all water crystals were formed.
In his book The Hidden Messages in Water, Emoto concludes: “What the world needs now is gratitude. We must begin by learning what it means to have enough. We need to feel gratitude for having been born on a planet so rich in nature, and gratitude for the water that makes our life possible…When you have become the embodiment of gratitude, think about how pure the water that fills your body will be. When this happens, you yourself will be a beautiful, shining crystal of light.”
By Nancy Hearn