I just wanted to write a little post today in praise of gratitude.
Let me start by saying what gratitude isn’t. It’s not complacency. It’s not pretending that the world’s problems don’t exist. It’s not denial. It’s not a panacea, or a cure-all for all your problems.
But it is an amazing (and amazingly simple) tool.
So what exactly is gratitude, and how can it help you?Gratitude is a daily practice. It’s recognition of what’s good in the world at large, and in your world specifically. It’s global and it’s particular.
Are there plenty of reasons NOT to feel grateful today? Of course. Just spend some time in traffic, or on social media, or reading the news.
But the value of gratitude is that it’s essentially a mindfulness practice. It’s about tuning it to just certain things, and screening out others. It’s about being really present with a very particular thing, that then tends to lead to a particular lightening of your load.
When you sit quietly and just focus on one thing–and one thing only–that can be a source of gratitude in your life, you’ll feel something change in your chest. You don’t have to do it for very long. I was actually in a group meeting where the leader the other day where the leader had us do it for just five seconds, and even in that short of a time, it could make a bit of difference.
Now, you can do this in reverse. You can tune into your own negativity, or the world’s. And often we do this without even being aware of it. It can just seem easier to go there. There’s so much we want and don’t have; there’s so much pain and ugliness.
Or perhaps it’s that the pathway to sadness, negativity, and even depression is well-worn. Our brains are used to traveling it. We go there automatically.
Gratitude is a way to retrain your neural pathways in small increments. It teaches you to notice something that can produce a more positive feeling in your mind and in your body.
And that’s worth trying out, every day, maybe even multiple times a day, isn’t it?
***Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda (http://hollybrownmft.com/ ). She’s also the author of–what else?–psychological thrillers (http://hollybrownbooks.com/ ).
Brown, H. (2017). Gratitude, Anyone?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 24, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/bonding-time/2017/05/gratitude-anyone/