Gratitude: An Affirmation of Goodness and the Gifts We Receive in our Lives, By Doro Bush Koch
The other day I had a complete and total disconnect with one of my adult children. I was very hurt by a decision he had made. I called him to make sure he had thought it through, and he indicated to me that he had. It wasn't anything earth shattering and life will go on despite his decision, but for me the hurt was real. My mind became a storm of thoughts and emotion and all of them were negative--emotions like sadness, disappointment, disbelief, and anger and thoughts like “Why can't he see it the way I do?” and “He is so wrong on this.” All of that was swirling around my head. And before I knew it, in a nano second, I became lost in those thoughts and emotions.
What I know from studying mindfulness is that one of the best ways to change the atmosphere of the mind is with gratitude. Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness and the gifts we receive in our lives. It doesn't mean life is perfect, or that we ignore the difficult things, but gratitude encourages us to look for the good.
One of the great teachers of mindfulness today, Jack Kornfield, describes gratitude this way:
"Gratitude is a gracious acknowledgment of all that sustains us, a bow to our blessings, great and small, an appreciation of the moments of good fortune that sustain our life everyday. "
Major obstacles to our experiece of gratitude include the habit we have of rushing through life without pause. And the habit we have of getting lost in thoughts and emotions like I did after the encounter with my son. But it's important to remember that we are never lacking for blessings in our lives, but we are often lacking in awareness and recognition of them.
There is science that tells us gratitude is good for us. We start out as human beings inclined by nature to respond to threat and danger and the result is that we live in a constant state of stress and anxiety. Therefore it's hard and against our nature to notice the good and positive things in the world.
But brain research suggests that if we slow down, and notice the feeling of the warm sun on our back, or the morning birdsong at the break of dawn, and practice gratitude, that we can trigger bio-chemical responses that can improve our well-being. It's about maintaining a sense of wonder, not a sense of worry.
Mindfulness is a wonderful starting point in cultivating gratitude. With mindfulness, you train your mind to be aware of all that is good in life. With practice you can develop gratitude the way you can with any skill, such as cooking or learning an instrument. The more you practice, the easier feeling grateful becomes. The more grateful you are for everything in your life, the more you find to be grateful for. With gratitude, the most difficult of days can be lit with hope and joy.