When we are caught up in the malaise of okness it is easy to focus on complaining how boring life is. We then spiral into more negativity and get caught up in a cycle of just existing and the habit of complaining. Some complaining can be useful if it realistically is discovering a problem to solve, or providing an impetus to improve. Yet all too often we keep on with the complaining, and habitually gripe -- that mires our thought lives with negativity. A positive way of breaking this cycle is to look at life with a grateful heart of thankfulness.
"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." - Epictetus
“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” -Margaret Cousins
"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." - G.K. Chesterton
The above quotes relate to having a grateful heart. Being grateful in our daily attitude is to focus on being thankful concerning what we have and the good things in our past that have helped mold us to who we are at this present point in time. Being thankful for parents, teachers, friends, and influential heroes that have shaped our present brings inner joy. This helps to counter the blame game of victimhood. Gratefulness for our present situation is a contentment that guards against complaining about what we don’t have.
The sense of appreciation that comes from a grateful heart changes our life for the better. It can break the cycle of negativity if we are in the habit of complaining. Building the habit of a grateful heart will also affect the lives of those around us. For example, when you smile or say “have a nice day”, to a tired sales clerk you can see an immediate body language change as they return a smile and say thanks. Try it on your next shopping trip. Give a smile to the worker at the counter and you will notice a difference. Too many complain, “That store clerk was rude”; “the waitress was so unfriendly”. Maybe they just need a smile to remind them of how they should be. So our appreciative nature may influence others to be more thankful and happy as well.
The Chesterton quote pointed out to me that gratefulness can lead us to a sense of happy wonder. A deep spiritual joy can grow in our inner being as we look at the small things around us, and see how a simple thing like a rose in the garden brightens our day. Noticing the little miracles in life will lead us to having an awe-filled day instead of an awful day. We have a dear friend, Cathy Matovich, who manages a birding store,( Wild Bird Center), in the Chicago area. She gave us a Hummingbird Feeder on our Summer trip to Chicago. We have it hanging on our back patio and there is a sense of joyful awe of God’s creation as we watch our hyperactive little friends flitting about enjoying the nectar from the feeder. We can appreciate God’s creation as we enjoy our morning coffee while watching the birds.
I have had my times in the negative complaining mode, so I can appreciate the experiential difference of living in a more appreciative mindset. In a Positive Psychology class I am taking online; this past week’s lectures have touched on the issue of gratefulness. It is helpful to see the research on the topic. Here are some Samples of research on being grateful that can be found at this website by Dr. Emmons—
http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/labs/emmons/ . From looking at the research it is seen that having gratefulness in our daily living has physical health benefits for better health, positive mental health benefits, increased happiness levels, and higher levels of personal success. That is what Living More Than OK is all about.
Many religious traditions speak to the subject of thankfulness and gratefulness. As I have mentioned in past postings, my spiritual heritage and personal worldview comes from a Christian standpoint of having a personal relation with Christ. Here at the following website are samplings of verses on the importance of being thankful from the Judeo Christian viewpoint:
Ephesians 5:19 & 20 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
The two verses above are a couple of my favorites on gratefulness. Ephesians 5 speaks to our interpersonal communication that it would be positive in nature. Speaking to each other with Psalms and hymns with an attitude of thankfulness. Philippians 4:6 speaks of overcoming anxiety by the act of spiritual prayer in an attitude of thankfulness. We may not be blissfully happy about everything that is happening to us but by keeping a thankful heart we are better able to cope with life difficulties.
Take 15 minutes to think over two things you are grateful for in your life. How does the reflection over these things make you feel? Is there a person or persons related to what you are grateful for?