Friday, August 26, 2011

For the Love of Gratitude

Every now and then I like to write a post that has nothing to do with food. We eat and food nourishes us, but we are also nourished emotionally with the love from those around us, the beauty that we see in the everyday world and things that inspire us. Gratitude for all the good things in my life nourishes my soul especially.

Agrigirl (whose blog I follow and adore) recently wrote a very thoughtful post about how laughter keeps us healthy. Her post reminded me of all the emotional, physiological and psychological things that keep us healthy. Emotional crying actually has health benefits and releases stress hormones and laughter releases endorphins and generally keeps us healthy and happy. Gratitude is something that may not illicit a physical response that has been studied but it's effect on my health is unquestionable.

I have been through a thing or two in my 32 years. I have watched marriages crumble first hand and I have seen true love grow from the tiniest seed. I have seen smart young people grow into amazing adults. I have buried one parent, all my grandparents and a whole separate theoretical career that never blossomed into anything except regret. I have had to work not only hard but smart for everything I have in this life. Yet when I look around all I see are things to be grateful for.

A very dear friend told me once a very long time ago that when you pray to God for the things that you want, always make sure you start off the prayer with some special thanks for all the good things you have. Adding the thanks in all my prayers may have been more for me than for God. Because now when I pray I get to mentally list out all the things I shouldn't take for granted and all the things with which I shouldn't become complacent. I try to start each day out with a simple prayer thanking God for all the good things in my life, and would He please make me strong enough to handle all the obstacles I will encounter in this day?

Recently I challenged myself to keep track of all the things I was thankful for in a day. It takes some family, my home, my job, my friends, my health. Of course those are the biggies. But as I walked through my day I saw all these wonderful things around me, the subway might be late but it always shows up andnthat is no small thing. The guy who 'waters' the street always stops the hose to let me walk past so I don't get wet. My office is a few blocks away from the Union Square Farmer's Market-how awesome is that?! My clients are truly nice people. Our garbage is always picked up on time by our city. I have access to clean fresh foods, virtually anywhere I am in the city.

Having gratitude for the little things in life makes us stronger people, better able to handle it when life tosses us lemons. My heart feels truly grateful when I look outside and see a beautiful clear sunrise. I believe that my feeling grateful for all the life around me makes me happier in the long run. And all that extra happiness keeps me healthy with low blood pressure. And my guess is that it helps more good things happen to me too! I watched an interesting 20/20 several years ago all about luck. Luck, they proclaimed, had alot to do with one's world view. The producers of the show took a few people who identified themselves as 'lucky' and an equal number who identified themselves as 'unlucky'. They asked each person to walk down a half block of a city street while being filmed. The producers had taped a $20 bill to the sidewalk for each person's turn. We the audience watched as each 'lucky' person walked down the street and found the $20. They couldn't believe their luck!! And every single unlucky person walked right on by, not fully understanding why they had been asked to walk down a street for a documentary on luck. Ok, that isn't science. But it is interesting. Perhaps luck isn't luck at all but more a personal willingness to be open to finding the good in this life.

Finding 'luck' or 'happiness' is a greater task than it may seem. How do you go about 'getting happy'? While that concept might be too abstract for most people, it is possible to invest in gratitude. That is even an easy task. Simply list all the things that you appreciate or are grateful. Eventually gratefulness leads to happiness. I am grateful that my kids like me. I glad that my husband is an invested dad, and equal partner in our marriage and parenting. I am happy, even with all our political and social problems, that I live in the United States. This is a special country.

Things truly could always be worse, so look around. What inspires gratitude in your heart today?

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