I had the great fortune of stumbling upon Arthur Brooks’ article in the New York Times, Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier.
Based on one of the studies he cited, I learned that my hypothalamus and ventral tegmental area of my brain were being stimulated, as I was deeply grateful for his ability to poignantly draw together the research and craft such a beautiful piece for all to enjoy. It ignited a passion in me to delve deeper into the studies and learn more about this thing called gratitude that has tremendous positive implications on one’s psychological and physical health.
I came across Robert Emmons’, a professor at UC Davis, work and his three-year research project called Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. In collaboration with UC Berkeley, his aim is to develop evidence-based practices that promote gratitude in schools, offices and communities and engage the public in a larger conversation about its importance in society. I am ever so grateful for the research being done; the significance of actively practicing gratitude cannot be understated, especially in times of crisis. Our world is being inundated with violence, despair and disease.
Instead of fighting fire with fire, hatred with hatred, vengeance with vengeance, can we stop, take a breath, and practice some gratitude?
In his article, “How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times”, Emmons writes,
“Consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude builds up a sort of psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall. There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals. The contrast between suffering and redemption serves as the basis for one of my tips for practicing gratitude: remember the bad.”
Remember the bad, I tell myself…and give thanks for it.
I give thanks for all those moments that I have failed in life; for all the times I have disappointed those I love; for all the experiences where I didn’t quite meet the expectations that were set; for all the instances that I have fallen flat on my face and had a really difficult time getting back up.
I give thanks for all of it, as I realize that my value was never contingent upon my ability to succeed and that I am worthy regardless of whether or not I measure up to a particular standard.
I give thanks for all those who have overstepped my (once) flimsy boundaries; for those moments that I have felt unsafe, been in danger and have experienced trauma. I give thanks for the fact it’s allowed me to see where I wasn’t in my power, where I wasn’t being brave and where I was afraid to speak up and say no. I give thanks for all of it, as I have learned the importance of creating solid boundaries, using my voice and honoring myself before anyone else.
I give thanks for the multiple breakings of my heart; for the men that I have loved and have lost; for the men that I never had to begin with. I give thanks for the hurtful moments of my past that left me feeling encumbered at one point—wounded beyond repair (or so it seemed). I give thanks for the courage it took to keep moving forward, to keep cultivating my stability while standing on a crumbling foundation. I give thanks for all of it, as it has led me to unconditional love within myself and the realization that it was never someone else’s responsibility to make me feel whole.
I give thanks for the cruelty I have felt from others; for the cutting jabs to my character and the spiteful attacks on my integrity. I give thanks for the vulgar comments that have been made, both behind my back and to my face. I give thanks for the judgments others carry and project.
I give thanks for the humility I have found in the darkest shadows, the kindness that’s come pouring through me in the face of hatred, and the compassion that has replaced the desire to retaliate. I give thanks for all of it, as it has helped me see the self-judgments that I still carry and the places where I get to further heal and fiercely love myself.
I give thanks for a horrific disease that is growing in numbers; that is one the top leading causes for death; that is without a cure. I give thanks for it as I witness my profound strength being ignited in the face of grief and my ability to breathe through moments that seem suffocating. I give thanks as I choose to be present (to the best of my ability) and live each moment fully, recognizing that I have no idea what will come next. I give thanks for the fact that I am not a victim, I do not wallow, I do not dwell, I feel my pain fully and yet I rise strong. I give thanks for all of it, as I am choosing to find the blessings within a shattering reality.
I give thanks for all the things that keep me up at night; for all the experiences that lead to sorrow; for all the moments that make me want to hide. I give thanks for the haters that hate, the blamers that blame, the fighters that fight and the shamers that shame, all causing me to look within and really question how I am choosing to show up in this life.
I choose to give thanks…for all of it.
Author: Jessica Winterstern
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own, Gisela Giardino/Flickr