Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!
Feasts to celebrate thankfulness have been around for a very long time and it seems that gratitude is a deeply human response to 'good'. Throughout history, a bountiful harvest was such a nice feeling.... so safe and comforting and heart-warming. All the anxiety and worry about the unpredictable weather and the many many possible obstructions between planting a seed and reaping the harvest... were over. There was safety. And rest. And gratitude. And celebration.
It is almost trendy, these days, to be 'grateful'. With all the emphasis on 'how to be happy', and the extensive studies showing that grateful people are happy people... many of us now try to make a habit of being thankful on a daily basis.
Although I've never been a big fan of doing what's 'trendy'... gratitude really does change you for better. It actually IS is difficult to be both depressed and grateful. Not as a little checklist ritual (I'm thankful for A and B... hmmm I need one more thing to be thankful for...umm....... oh ya... I'm thankful for C too)... but as a deep resurgence of clarity and a exercised capacity for appreciation.
"Clarity" because we can readily lose focus and see only the overwhelming landslide of whatever negative things are in our life. It seems so much easier to magnify the disappointments than to magnify the things we are grateful for.
"Exercised capacity for appreciation" because our appreciation muscles need to be 'exercised'... stretched and worked like everything else in our body and then they become stronger, more flexible and we feel so much better. Our brains are wired so that when we feel gratitude, other emotions click in as well... safety, comfort, warmth, celebration....
But we actually have to do it. Focus. Work our brain to lift up the good things for us to see. Look at them and say out loud "I'm so thankful for...".
It's a beautiful autumn day in Guelph today and I have been out for a bike ride (what I call cycle-therapy) and I thought of a couple of exercises to try in the gratitude gym.
You know how you can't really give a neck massage and receive one at the same time? Because in order to receive a neck massage you need to relax the very muscles you need to tighten in order to give one? Well... when you are giving thanks, if you are sincere, you will be focused on truly thanking someone else and when you are truly thanking someone else, you really can't be feeling unappreciated yourself. So many times we get on that downward spiral of feeling unrecognized and unappreciated and one of the best ways to reverse that spiral is to find someone to authentically recognize and thank. It actually does feel much better....
The key words, however, are "truly" and "sincere" and "authentically". Just 'imitating' gratitude but not really feeling it does not get results. And here's an exercise to help you with that. Let your brain visualize for a few moments what it would be like to be... a quadriplegic... for example. I'm pretty sure most of us will promptly have a fresh surge of gratitude.
I remember many years ago reading a story of a young woman breaking her neck in reckless moment diving off a rock... and being paralyzed from the neck down. One of the many things she missed was a cold toilet seat. A cold toilet seat! That might not normally be near the top of my gratitude list... but... ya. Wow. Gets me thinking. In the winter when I crawl out from under my cozy down comforter and head to the washroom... I remember that. And there is so much to suddenly and sincerely feel grateful for.
If you wish you could feel grateful but you just can't because the moment you manage to work up a little gratitude, another bad thing happens and you are flattened all over again... then perhaps you need some help. Perhaps you need a hand up.
Call me. I will help.