Last week, Hal and I each received a gift from his sister, Susan – The Gratitude Journal. Susan let us know these were coming and said that using her Gratitude Journal was particularly helpful to her during these times.
Each day the journal asks you to reflect in the morning on:
These are all great questions and ideas. Yet my first response was very grumbly! “Gratitude! Another thing on my list of things to do! Really? Will it help that much?” Wow, what a cynic I am that my response to this gracious gift was to grumble!
Then I got to thinking about this response. I know that gratitude is a good thing and I know that I always work to express gratitude to others for things they do. I appreciate it when people express gratitude to me for something I have done. Why was I so grumpy about this?! Where did this cynicism come from?
I believe it comes from a place that we all share during these stressful times, a place of great weariness and overwhelm. A place of pain and sorrow that is deep and wounding that may border on despair. The list of why we are all feeling this is long…personal events in our lives, the divisive state of our nation, the threats of climate change, the violence that we perpetrate on another as human beings as well as on creation. We are all in need of deep healing.
Well……it turns out that gratitude is healing! Harvard Health reports, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. Gratitude literally alters our brains. Neuroscience research tells us "that gratitude causes synchronized activation in multiple brain regions, and lights up parts of the brain's reward pathways and the hypothalamus. In short, gratitude can boost neurotransmitter serotonin and activate the brain stem to produce dopamine." Dopamine is our brain's pleasure chemical.” “Studies have shown that feeling thankful can improve sleep, mood and immunity. Gratitude can also decrease depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain and risk of disease,” even heart disease!
So much for my grumbling! Of course, I can still grumble if I really want to, however, look at the benefits of gratitude. Just a little gratitude for the blessings and beauty of life, no matter how small they may seem in the scheme of things, is literally life-saving. Gratitude shifts our perspective out of fear and into wonder, out of focusing on pain (life will still be painful) and into focusing on love.
I am taking at second look at this new gratitude journal. It seems it will be worthwhile. I invite you into gratitude with me using the questions listed above or simply remembering to be grateful for something morning and evening. Let’s lift our gratitude to the Holy One bit by bit and heal together.
I am grateful to be with you all on this journey we call life!