Gratitude is what connects us all. For instance, when we are grateful for a meal, not only can we be grateful for the food, we are grateful for all those who made the meal possible — the farmers, the grocers, the cooks. When we give thanks, we are acknowledging all of the connections that bind us together and on which we are all dependent. When we rejoice over our blessings, we are celebrating our good fortune and the fortune of others. We are celebrating our good deeds and the good deeds of others. When we rejoice, we are much less likely to take life for granted, and we can affirm and appreciate all that we have and have done.
The best way to create our best destiny with the least amount of effort is to rejoice in your good deeds and those of others. Rejoicing actually predisposes us to repeat those good deeds in the future. Even scientists have long known that our brains have evolved with a negative bias; it’s advantageous for our survival to focus on what’s wrong or dangerous. But gratitude cuts across this default mode of the mind and allows us to see what is good and right, not just what is bad and wrong. It’s because of this negative bias that people are often skeptical of gratitude and wonder if it’s a naive point of view or if it will lead to complacency or even injustice. It brings to question, if we are grateful for what is, will we be less likely to work for what still needs to be? Studies show that grateful people actually don’t ignore or deny the negative aspects of life; they simply choose to appreciate what is positive.
“People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathetic and to take the perspective of others. They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks.”
Grateful people are also healthier people. Those who focus on gratitude and exercise it more often, have been found to have fewer physical symptoms, feel better about themselves, and are more positive about the week ahead compared those who viewed life through its hassles and the neutrality of life’s events. Similarly, gratitude is motivating and those who focus on gratitude are more likely to make progress toward their important personal goals. Gratitude allows us to experience more positive emotions, more vitality and optimism, greater life satisfaction, and lower levels of stress and depression because gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus, a part of the reward circuits that produce pleasure in the brain. Research shows that even the simple act of smiling for as little as twenty seconds can trigger positive emotions. Smiling also seems to reward the brains of those who see us smiling and makes them feel better too. It’s contagious, and stimulates unconscious smiling in others, which in turn spreads positivity.
So whether we are smiling because we’re happy or we’re happy because we’re smiling, both are true. And whether we frown in displeasure or smile in appreciation, we have enormous power over our emotions and our experiences in life. After all, impermanence is the nature of life; all this are slipping away and the danger of wasting our precious lifetime is real. But gratitude helps us catalog, celebrate, and rejoice in each day and each moment before they slip through that vanishing hourglass of experience.
It’s really no surprise that gratitude is a factor that influences happiness along with our ability to reframe negative events into positive ones. It plays a vital role in our ability to be kind and generous toward others. When we recognize all that we have been given, it is our natural response to want to care for and give to others.
DAY 38. Love, Ro