Tuesday 18th February 2020

Word of Year: Gratitude. 1/51 #LifeThisWeek 1/2020.

Word of Year: Gratitude 1/51 #LifeThisWeek1/2020.

This Link Up Has Been Part of Each Monday Since September 2016….almost every Monday: summer holidays & my cancer surgery July 2017 excepted.

This is #LifeThisWeek 170. I appreciate each and every blogger who links up. Thank you. Onward in 2020! 

Welcome to 2020 and Life This Week! I hope you are doing well. The past months in Australia have been very challenging with excessive heat and many fires which have caused enormous damage and loss. I send my commiserations to those affected.

In the last post for 2019, I did give a hint in the form of the beginning letter of each of the ten new optional prompts for 2020.

    R    A    T     I    T     U    D     E

I admit I have been somewhat late to the understanding of the purpose of gratitude….and then I saw this quote:

In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.

Br. David Steindl-Rast. Network for Grateful Living.

That made sense to me even more as I have learned much about gratitude and me since doing the 30 days of gratitude in the lead up to my 70th Birthday.

Over the past few years my husband’s words to me often included “what have you been grateful for today?” or “what went well for you today?”. Yes, I could answer him mostly in a positive way but until I had a shift in the form of my own revelations I guess I was paying lip service to gratitude. From time to time, I would think about what I was grateful for and write things down then I would leave it.

I need to add these words that are for me, similar to gratitude and will see me using them:

  • thankful
  • blessed (yes, not a joke)
  • content
  • grateful
  • fortunate

As someone who needs evidence I did my research and continue to read more on gratitude. This article, mentions many of those I have come to know from my reading and listening which is why I am including much of the article. It is from a US source.

 

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. In fact over the years I’ve come to realize that gratitude is perhaps our most powerful and profound emotion. And that’s the only problem with Thanksgiving — by giving gratitude its one big day a year, do we run the risk of not giving it enough of our time and attention the other 364 days?

That would be a shame, because gratitude isn’t just a courtesy, or amatter of good manners. It’s our gateway to grace. It’s no coincidence that gratitude shares the same Latin root — gratus — as the word grace. So in addition to a day of gratitude, we can choose to live in a state of gratitude — and thus in a state of grace.

We live in a stress-filled, sleep-deprived, burned out world. In fact, for many, Thanksgiving itself is one of the most stressful days of the year. And that’s ironic, because the answer to Thanksgiving stress is right there in the word itself. Whenever we find ourselves in that stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off mindset — including this week — gratitude is the brake lever. It gives us perspective and allows us to reset and recharge.

Though they didn’t have Thanksgiving, the ancients certainly knew the value of giving thanks. Cicero wrote that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others.” It took a few thousand years, but this wisdom has since been validated by a mountain of science. And we still haven’t reached the end of the list of what gratitude can do.

Robert Emmons, of the University of California, Davis, and Michael McCullough, of the University of Miami, are two of the foremost gratitude researchers. In one study, for several weeks, one group of participants wrote down things they were thankful for. A second group noted things that had annoyed them. The first group ended up feeling more optimistic and happy about their lives. And they even exercised more and slept better. But it wasn’t because the first group had more things to be thankful for — it was the act of thinking about what they were grateful forthat gave them such a tangible boost in well-being. We’re grateful not for the things we expect, but just the opposite.

“At the cornerstone of gratitude is the notion of undeserved merit,” Emmons and McCullough write in their book, The Psychology of Gratitude. “The grateful person recognizes that he or she did nothing to deserve the gift or benefit; it was freely bestowed.” It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger and resignation — a small miracle that produces a lingering moment of grace. And as they conclude in their study, when we choose to continue creating these moments, the consequences are powerful. “A life oriented around gratefulness is the panacea for insatiable yearnings and life’s ills,” they write.

Martin Seligman, of the University of Pennsylvania — and one of the founders of the field of positive psychology — has shown that the benefits of a single gratitude exercise — in one study, writing and delivering a thank you letter — can last for an entire month. Gratitude has also been found to lower levels of stress and depression, and improve sleep. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that gratitude exercises can lower levels of inflammation, which improves heart health. In adolescents, gratitude has been found to reduce materialism and increase generosity, and lead to healthier eating. At the other end of life, gratitude has been found to reduce loneliness in the elderly.

And before I go to sleep, I’ll quickly write down a few things I’m grateful for. It focuses my mind on all the many blessings in my life, big and small — and shrinks the list of unresolved problems. Of course, we all have a mix of both in our lives, but it’s up to us to choose which frames our outlook and our daily lives. As Charles Dickens wrote, “reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

And it’s not just our present blessings. The power of gratitude can also extend to what hasn’t happened — all those close shaves with “disaster” of some kind or another, all the bad things that could happen to us and just… don’t. That distance between them happening and not happening is grace. It’s summed up in one of my favorite quotes (attributed to the eighth-century Muslim jurist Imam Al-Shafi’i): “My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me.”

And then there are the disasters that do happen, that leave us broken and in pain. For me, such a moment was losing my first baby when I was 36. Losing a baby brings up so many unspoken fears and worst-case scenarios: Will I ever be able to carry a baby to term? Will I ever be able to become a mother? Everything felt broken inside. My mother had once shown me a quote from Aeschylus that spoke to me in those hours: “And even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.” And there it is again: grace. Gratus. Gratitude. It wasn’t a magic bullet. It didn’t erase my grief. I wouldn’t have wanted it to. But it told me I could get through it, and that I was strong enough to take this, carry it with me and keep going.

There are, of course, countless ways to bring the power of gratitude into your life. Mark Williams, of the University ofOxford, suggests a daily “10-finger gratitude exercise,” in which you list 10 things you’re grateful for and count them out on your fingers. Coming up with 10 won’t always be easy. But that’s the point — it’s about, as he puts it in his book Mindfulness, “intentionally bringing into awareness the tiny, previously unnoticed elements of the day.”

Laurie Santos taught Yale’s most popular class, “Psychology and the Good Life,” also known as the “happiness course.” To get the full effect of gratitude, “you have to take time to feel it,” she says. “It’s a moment to really reflect on, ‘What would my life be like without this thing?’”

That’s why gratitude has been at the core of every tradition that focuses on what it means to live a good life. “Our minds are terrible at accurately predicting what will make us happy,” she says. “I think that’s why humans have historically needed religion and faith. Those traditions push us in the direction of doing acts of charity, having gratitude, being in communities where we connect with people — all things that give us a boost. Luckily, nonbelievers can get a boost from those habits, too.”

You can even work gratitude into your life through habit stacking, creating a healthy new habit by “stacking” it onto an existing habit.

For instance: Think of three things you’re grateful for while brushing your teeth or during some other part of your morning or nighttime routine. It doesn’t have to be about something big or life-changing. It can be gratitude for your morning coffee, or a random interaction with someone who made us smile that day, or a piece of nature on the way to work. Or it can be simply gratitude for being alive.

Subscribe here for my Weekly Thoughts Newsletter, where you’ll find my take on the week’s news, my favourite pieces on how we can thrive even in our stressful world, and some fun and inspiring extras.

This word, and those like it, along with more will be the subject of further explanation in my post on Wednesday.

I hope, that you may find some reasons to be grateful in your life today….

Thank you for being part of Life This Week 2020.

Denyse.

 

Link Up #170. Life This Week.

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Comments

  1. Happy New Year, Denyse! I hope you’re doing well. I’ve been following the news in Australia. My thoughts are with everyone who’s been affected by the fires. Your WoTY, Gratitude, is timeless and an excellent word to start a new year and new decade. I’m grateful for many things in my life, such as waking up to a new day every morning, having good health, and my family with me.

    • Thank you Natalie. Congratulations on being #1 commenter in 2020.

      Ah yes, the fires and all that goes with this time in Australia is quite a stress for so many and even an observer like me can find it a challenge. This is why I need good distractions like blogging.

      I would love to wake each morning as you do. My husband does this upon waking.

      I am learning to do so!

      Welcome to 2020.

      Denyse x

  2. What a deep and meaningful post Denyse, full of grateful words and quotes. I am in awe of what you manage to share and you inspire us all.inam grateful for many things at the moment but mainly those protecting our communities from the devastating fires. Happy New Year to you and I look forward to continuing to join you wherever possible throughout 2020.

    • Di from Max The Unicorn says:

      Hi Deb, I tried to comment a couple of times on your post but I don’t think it worked!

    • Thank you kindly Deb. I could not write the post without the research! I needed to understand more deeply about gratitude myself so, what else would a teacher do!?

      I appreciate that life both where you are in the UK and where your home is, in NSW, is both a worry and a time to appreciate ‘what is’. From my view, I think you are managing exceedingly well.

      When you get back to Australia you already know it will be tough but you (and your husband) have done ‘tough’ before.

      Sending love,
      Denyse x

  3. Happy New Year and best wishes for 2020! The Aussie bushfires are so devastating and overwhelming, you see the importance of gratitude. I’m so grateful for this Country and the brave firies volunteering to fight the fires.

    • Thank you Di.

      Happy 2020 to you.

      I am still getting used to writing the year.

      Very grateful for the firies. Not so much for the political nature of the events. Sigh.

      Stay cool and safe.

      Denyse x

  4. Thanks so much for hosting!

  5. This is another inspirational post Denyse which has really made me think of what I have to be grateful for. My first thoughts are the gratitude I have to the amazing fire fighters at the moment. I’m also very very grateful that we have so far been spared from these dreadful fires that are spreading across our state. I have linked up to Life This Week for the first time. I’m hoping to be able to link up most weeks.

    • Welcome Jennifer to 2020 and Life This Week!

      I am so pleased you can link up too.
      So glad you are safe!
      Yes, I did say to myself I sure picked a heck of a word to be ‘it’ in 2020…but gratitude has made me look more deeply at what it means in the toughest of times too.

      Denyse x

  6. I love the concept of gratitude <3 I am a strong believer in the power of being thankful and appreciative. I seriously think it can change the human brain. Right now I am very grateful my town and family haven't been touched by the bushfires and for the awesome human beings who are daily saving lives and homes. I look foward to reading more about your grateful journey over 2020 Denyse

    • Thank you Caz. Such a time it’s been and from what I hear no communities can be complacent. Sigh. We are very grateful for those who help. I am also grateful you have come back to blogging. I hope you get some more chances to join in too.

      Denyse x

  7. I knew that was going to be your word and I’m really glad! I think it’s a perfect word. I used to pooh-pooh gratitude but once I read more about positive psychology and Seligman’s work in particular, I decided to give it a shot as well and do find it helpful. Here’s hoping 2020 is a wonderful year for you!

    • Thank you my friend. I feel that I have been tested already with this word though. To look for and feel the gratitude while the situation in our country has been awful does make me dig deep.

      On a slightly irreverent note about Martin Seligman. Do you know he continues to be pessimistic despite his words…and books and practices? On the audible version of Robert Emmon’s book on Gratitude he quotes Seligman “Bob, you know I don’t do gratitude…..” Ha!

      Hope the new year and role are both treating you well.

      Denyse x

  8. Gratitude is a good topic to ponder for the year! It was the title of my very first blog post 2 years ago. I love the quote by Br. David Steindl-Rast. So good!

    • Ah we have like minds Laurie!

      Thank you for your good wishes.

      Br David has quite the following too. Really made me think with that quote.

      Have a great year.

      Denyse x

  9. Your posts are so inspiring. Happy new year!

Denyse values & reads every comment written, thank you. There is always a reply.

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