Tap into Pain and Get Power
In light of Thanksgiving approaching along with the heated and painfully tumultuous state of our country right now, it seems timely to write this post.
Today I will share with you something that in moments of pain I return to time and time again because of it’s effectiveness. It has been one of the most powerful, no nonsense, down into the bones catalyzing practices that I have successfully made a regular part of my day. I no longer formally practice it in 20 minute concentrated sessions but instead have woven into stolen moments throughout the day as a given. Much like washing my hands after using the bathroom or checking the time throughout the day, it is a habit.
In Stolen Moments
When I’m doing things that require waiting for minutes at a time like say making copies, at a red light on the road or waiting my turn at the grocery cash register, my mind defaults to returning to this practice.
I’m talking to you about gratitude.
A Funda’ of Emotional/ Mental Self Care
Part of my message in this blog is sharing the power of being solid in our fundamental habits of self care. Gratitude if used, can be a basic mental/emotional self care habit that is as powerful as drinking more water, sleeping more, exercising and meditation. Its one of those that no matter who you are, what you believe, what religion you follow , how old you are etc. it will reap benefits almost immediately.
This is the first part of a series of posts since there is so much to share on this one word that encompasses a vast and deep reservoir of beautiful benefits and ways to apply it.
Right Down to The Bones, Real Change
I thought gratitude was one of those fru fru, new age, pollyannish, out of touch with “reality” ideas that hold no real fundamental leverage for sustainable and positive change. That is how I saw it before trying it.
Angry Teen Dares to Appreciate
Because of who I was when I was first introduced to this concept: 17 and pushing against the temptation to permanently “check out” of life, I had a great deal of animosity towards the idea. “How dare you tell me to be grateful for the bad hand life had handed me!“ is the way I looked at it.
Yet my desperation squashed this enough to get me to try it.
Desperation Trumps Animosity
Feeling gratitude was so far away from where I was. I felt ridiculous doing it and for the first few weeks I would sarcastically write things like “Thank you God for my overbearing parents, the pain they caused has gotten me desperate enough to try this stupid thing”. “Thank God for cliques in high school, because of them I have managed to be a complete loner and am better off!”. “Thank you God for one more explosive interaction with my father, my writhing in pain as a result lets me know I am alive and is better than the daily numbness I walk around with.”
Set Out to Disprove
My initial expectation was to have nothing more than fleeting moments of “feeling nice” and then when finished basically be back at the ground zero of my life. It turned out to be a heavy weight champion for elevating my default state of apathy and depression, in the guise of a feather.
I will put a hold on my personal subjective experience for now and introduce you instead to the most accurate definition of gratitude I have found to date by Robert Emmons, one of the most seasoned researchers of gratitude.
It is in two parts from an essay he contributed for the science-based Greater Good site. It is long for a quote but I found it to good to leave any of it out.
“First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good thing in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life.
The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride. We can appreciate positive traits in ourselves, but I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”
Science Links Galore!
Any of you reading my posts regularly would agree that my style is nothing less than personal. It’s very hard for me not to write in this way. For that reason it is equally important to me that I find the science to backup my experience of the effectiveness of all the tools I have used in finding sustainable well being.
I know my life has changed for the better because of what I have done but what use is it to you if you don’t try it? Nothing is s persuasive as good hard research.
Here is a video from Scientific American that is science term- friendly and shares the impressive results from FMRI scans on the brain when experiencing gratitude.
Here is research on how practicing gratitude lowers impulsive behaviors, increases self control and begets sound financial decisions
Parents to adolescents take heed! I found this lovely study on the benefits of gratitude on adolescents. Wish I found this earlier!
Is the political upheaval keeping you up at night? Here is a study on the benefits of gratitude on sleep and its suppression of neurotic traits
Having heart problems? Research has proven the benefits of gratitude on heart failure variability by decreasing inflammation.
And last but not least here is research on how gratitude lowers the stress hormone Cortisol and increases the anti aging compound our body creates called DHEA.
Now for My Heart
Had enough yet on this seemingly new age fluff? Now that the science is out of the way, I will now share with you my heart and what I have experienced with this powerful practice in the next post.
Do you approach the power of gratitude with disbelief? Do you have an inspiring story to share around it? Please take a moment to share!
Until then, did you find this post helpful? Please share, like or comment.
Any suggestions on what you want more of? I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time, thanks for stopping by!