As Simrat at Akal Ranch says,
Gratitude creates its own attitude.
Once again, It’s Thankful Thursday, and I’m taking a moment to consider all the things I have to be grateful for. Part of mindful awareness is living gratitude every moment of every day, and not just while writing Thankful Thursday’s post.
Sometimes the suggestion to integrate gratitude can seem trite or to simple to really be a remedy for our difficulties in life. So, why would we want to do that?
For the same reason that neuroscientists are finding that discipline can retrain our brains (e.g., neuroplasticity). So when we’re exercising or practicing meditation, the idea is not to do these with the goal of “being relaxed” in mind, but to do them to lay down new tracks in the brain so that our “auto-pilot” doesn’t automatically default to ineffective and destructive habitual strategies in the future.
Elisha Goldstein, PhD, who writes a blog on neuroplasticity at psychcentral.com and is the co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, suggests that as we practice techniques of gratitude, we will begin to recognize that there is a choice and we don’t need to engage in self-destructive behaviors such as self-criticism, anger, binge eating, or self-isolation. This can only really happen as these new neural tracks are laid down. The immediate result of counting our blessings is not the point: it is the retraining of the brain that does the work.
To this end, Robert Emmons and Michael McCollough conducted a 2003 study a while back called Counting Blessings versus Burdens. They divided their subjects into three groups of people and asked one group to count 5 blessings per day, one group to count 5 burdens per day and another group to write about neutral events. Surprise! The people who counted blessings reported less stress and more feelings associated with wellbeing.
Part of retraining the brain is the willingness to be present with the discomfort which comes up for many people (especially during this holiday season). Approaching all the feelings about our lives with attentive observation begins the rewiring process. Goldstein likens the beginning of the process to planting a seed. Starting to pay attention to what we are grateful for in life (just for a moment or two each day) is like laying down a row of seeds. As we repeat the process, it’s like watering the seeds. All plants take a while to grow, but given proper care and attention, grow they will
Today I will start the process by sharing that I’m grateful for the opportunities my job has given me. It’s not just a job, but a life-giving force that has expanded my mind and heart.
Take a few minutes today to create your own Thankful Thursday. If you don’t have a blog of your own, you are welcome to post your thoughts here. If you have a blog, post what you are grateful for there, and please link back here. Feel free to tag other bloggers. We are trying to get a mindful movement of gratitude going.