Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Benefits of Gratitude

Perhaps it's just who I listen to, but it seems like there are complaints everywhere. The challenge with a steady diet of complaints is that our ears get number and our hearts get cold. If everything is a complaint, then why listen. It even gets hard to sort out the complaints -- the relevant from the petty. So it's easier to just shut down.

The reality is that, if we focus on gratitude, we'll have less space and energy for complaints. Some call it replacement thinking -- not to make the bad stuff go away but balancing its impact. Plus, for most of us it's easy. We just have to pause, take a breath, and cast our minds over the last 24 hours.  Let me ask you:
* did you wake up safe and warm this morning?
* do you have food and clean water?
* can you access medical care?
* are you relatively secure and safe?
* do you have circles of friends, family, faith, co-workers?

If any of those are true for you -- as they are for me -- then we're better of than a huge majority of the human family, through history and today. And since most of that comes to us by accident of birth, there's no reason to be smug about it.  The only real response is gratitude.

For people of faith there is also a sense of gratitude for our connection to the Divine - call it God or Allah or The Force or whatever you want. Many faithful people get hung up in thinking we need to earn the care of the Divine.  That's just a manifestation of our society's individualism where, if I don't earn it, it won't happen. The challenge to that thinking is that we can never get ahead of God. Everything you can imagine doing? God's already acted. So everything we do is a response.  May as well make it a response of gratitude.

Since there's not a lot we can do that God needs, we get to do it for the rest of God's creation -- whether our human brothers and sisters or the other part of the glorious, wonderful web of life. Sometimes it's called "pay it forward."  When we do something kind or generous for someone else, without expecting anything in return -- even thanks. Maybe you might ask that the receiver pay it forward in turn.  But even if they don't, he or she has been impacted in a positive way. Maybe it will make them smile on a challenging day.

There's an old Christian maxim to do for others as we would have them do for us.  Doing good for others has multiple benefits:
* it makes us feel good
* it makes them feel good
* it's contagious -- imagine a contagion of good sweeping your community

There are no rules, no minimums, no limits -- nothing is too small, in case you're worried about that. Even the word "pay" can be misleading, since it doesn't need to involve money at all. Try writing anonymous notes and poems and leaving them to be found, encouraging people. Look for someone to mentor or befriend.  Nominate people for awards; write thank you letters to the paper; when you get good service, ask to speak to a supervisor to commend the staff person. Think of it as an opportunity rather than a burden (I'm helping a friend out of a jam). Take time to reflect on what you've done and the benefits you receive from doing good -- another reason to be thankful.

It can be a game changer.

Want some more ideas of the power of gratitude.  Check out the site of my friend Steve Foran.  he does gratitude for a living!! How cool is that?  His company is called "Gratitude at Work".

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