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Getting Some Gratitude
I am jumping the gun on Thanks-giving this year. Yes, I want to exhort you to summon gratitude NOT just in November but on a daily basis. Why this bee in my bonnet, as the old saying goes? Synchronicity! Here are the nudges that assembled quite magically for me within the space of a couple of days as I pondered this month’s topic:
Leafing through the June issue of O Magazine, I discovered an interview by Oprah Winfrey with one of my heroes: Brené Brown. Brené’s awesome TED Talk discusses her long-term study of vulnerability, and has been seen by more than 1 million viewers at YouTube. One sentence in Oprah’s interview caught my attention. Brown explains her focus on gratitude is because “in 12 years of research, I have never interviewed a single person with the capacity to really experience joy who does not also actively practice gratitude.” That is a significant wake-up call, in itself. But there is more …
Scrolling through Facebook posts one day last week, I noted that an OOAL reader had posted about a cool video on The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude. The synchronicity is that I just happened to make the time to watch this video that day. If you have time (7 minutes), please watch it! The experiment reveals some correlation between expressing gratitude and happiness, which is a good enough reason to do this, no? I believe the joy is multiplied because the recipient of your gratitude will be deeply affected, too. Keep reading!
I met a couple of friends last week for lunch. Upon arrival, I noticed one of my friends was holding the proof copy of his forthcoming novel. I was thrilled to see this fellow’s “baby” that is about to be born. He then drew our attention to his Acknowledgments, and right there, in black-and-white, were words of gratitude for the role a few of us had played in support of this book’s evolution. So this time, I was the recipient of gratitude and let me tell you that after I blushed and said those silly “oh, you didn’t need to’s,” I have to tell you I felt even more joy than I already felt at seeing the book!
Each time I think about gratitude, I think of Sarah Ban Breathnacht’s essay on this topic in her fabulous book, Simple Abundance. To locate her essay via Google, I learned that Sarah “inspired Oprah to start a gratitude journal.” Voila! The synchronicity went “full-circle!”
So, my non-scientific conclusion is that the practice of gratitude just might be the best anti-depressant medication you could ever take. AND, it is free! No hassles with insurance companies to cover your prescription costs. No waiting in pharmacies or big box markets (and no doubt spending MORE money on things you don’t really need) for your prescription to be filled. Etc.
I was struck by Brené Brown’s use of the word, practice. First, we can practice gratitude without any expectation of doing it perfectly. Yes! Second, if we make it a practice, like some do with a meditation, yoga or writing practice, it becomes more of an integral part of our days. It might even become second-nature! Finally, as with any art or skill, we do get better at something the more we practice. Who here felt excited about practicing their piano lessons each time they sat down at the keyboard? The idea is you practice even when you don’t feel like it. Remember, the upside to all of this practicing, no matter how you define it, is more joy.
Why We Are Scared of Joy
In that same interview by Oprah, Brené Brown surprised me with this: “If you ask me what’s the most terrifying emotion we feels as humans, I would say joy.” Of course, Oprah had to ask why. Brené explained that as we connect with joy and gratitude, we also connect with our fear of losing that joy, or that source of joy. As a result, we hold back. Brené put it so well: “It’s like we’re trying to dress-rehearse tragedy so we can beat vulnerability to the punch.” As one who has lost many loved ones, I simply offer my two-cents: feel the gratitude anyway. Express it and you may cultivate more joy within and with others.
Your September 2013 Prompts for Joy
Click here for 5 minutes of an exquisite operatic performance in the sky.
Click here to see the video discussed above. Consider it part of your practice!
I send deep gratitude to Sue Murray and Deb Clem for these gems.
Joy-Gram for September 2013
For your gratitude practice, do consider starting a Gratitude Journal. Or if you already have a meditation practice, take this quote with you on your next journey inward: “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” (Sarah Ban Breathnacht)
Pictured Above (and a Bonus Suggestion for Practicing Gratitude)
An unusual dramatic skyline taken at Baylands in Palo Alto, CA. (Photograph by Bill Scala)
Bonus Suggestion: Find one photograph and then list 5-10 things you feel grateful for based on what you see or what gets stirred. Here is my gratitude list based on this one photo: 1) Walks by the Bay are just a 10-minute drive away. 2) Rare nights when Bill and I are both home from work early enough to enjoy being outdoors together. 3) My husband’s photographic eye. 4) Walking, and having the ability to walk. 5) Portability of cameras via smart phones. 6) The sky, especially with clouds in it. 7) I don’t live in a humid climate. 8) A later dinner is worth being outdoors at dusk. 9) I don’t live in a high-crime district. 10) Worries and frustrations are mitigated by being away from technology for an hour. Etc. Get the idea?
By no means
do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume
that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for
myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this
pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience
of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!
Martha Clark Scala, MFT · 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ·