At my previous school, we had a specialized homeroom class every Friday dedicated to personal development. Different themes for discussion and activity would arise throughout the year, but one reoccurring theme we had was the notion of gratitude. Our kids (grades 5 thru 9) had a good idea about what it means to use your manners and be appreciative when someone does something for you. However, gratitude is a deeper concept than this. After a year’s worth of discussions, comparisons, case and cultural studies, and hands on activities, I’m still not sure if they really ‘got it’. This is a school full of amazing kids with supportive families, but out of every class, probably only a handful of students were deeply connected to the issue.
“Oh, but they’re just kids!”, you may say. They’ll learn to be more appreciative as they grow older. And while that may be true for some, I used the above example because I believe that gratitude remains a lifelong struggle. It’s one of those things that isn’t necessarily a measure of age or maturity. I know many twelve year olds who express gratitude far more often than the better half of adults.
I think we all get caught up in ‘it’. The rat race, the annoyances, the disappointments, the aggravations, the negativity. It’s life, and those things happen. I think it’s somewhat naive to go around thinking we can be completely joyous 100% of the time. Yet, the more we hold on to these emotions, the less room we have to look clearly at the positive aspects of our lives. I’ve had some fantastic conversations with my Dad about this kind of thing. He reads (and writes) a lot about positive thought and integral theory. He doesn’t coast through life in some kind of obliviously positive state or anything, but he does take time to really focus on the things that bring him joy. He lets negativity come into his life and then simply flow right back out again. I think this kind of attitude takes a lot more self-discipline and conscious effort than it appears.
Oprah focuses a fair amount on this way of thought as well, particularly the law of attraction: positive thoughts attract positive people & things. One of her radio show guests, Michael Losier, joined her in a discussion of gratitude. He wrote the book, Law of Attraction: The Science of Attracting More of What You Want and Less of What You Don’t.
By acknowledging what you are grateful for, Michael says you’ll become a deliberate attractor of positive vibrations. “Did you know that appreciation, gratitude and love are the highest forms of vibration?” he asks. “You can only have one vibration at a time, and if you are noticing what you appreciate and noticing what you are grateful for, you can’t be noticing what you don’t like.”
As more of your thoughts and words become positive, you’ll start attracting more positive people and circumstances, Michael says. “Decide today that you are going to reduce negativity in your life by getting rid of the ‘don’ts,’ ‘nots’ and ‘no’s’—the negative people, the negative thoughts,” he says. “Get in the habit of appreciating things.” <source>
I really identify with this. I’ll be the first to admit that I get caught up in negative emotion. Whether it’s been a tough day with Thomas, Adam working a lot, missing my friends and family, missing my career and life in Canada, etc. I have a hard time letting go and work myself into a state. And it’s always downhill from there. You know how it is. All of a sudden, everything seems shitty. That’s when I need to do something that helps to lift my spirits, or do as Losier suggests: acknowledge the positivity in my life. Because as he states, when you’re thinking about the amazing aspects of your life, there isn’t any room for the negative.
This weekend is Thanksgiving in Canada. Normally, we are celebrating with a turkey dinner, pumpkin pie, and a room full of people we love. It’s the one day a year that is actually dedicated to gratitude and makes us stop for a moment to appreciate the people and things in our lives. Although I definitely recognize and value the positives, I want to place more focus on gratitude every day. Talking, thinking, and writing about them always seems enough to put things into perspective. It grounds us. It makes us realize that the joys and happiness in our life, no matter how big or small, is all we really need.
In celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving, I challenge you to stop and think about five things for which you are grateful. We can never be too appreciative for the goodness in our lives, as it can only lead to greater happiness.
How have you shown gratitude today?