Cultivating the Art of Gratitude
In today’s guest post, insightful author Monique A. Honaman writes about something that should really be a part of all of our daily lives — the practice of gratitude.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I attended a fabulous seminar in Atlanta two weeks ago. It was about Transcendental Meditation and the health benefits of allowing your mind, body and spirit to slow down for at least twenty minutes twice a day. The audience was a room of Type-A work-hard/play-hard women who were striving to have it “all.” The message was intense and, as an audience, we listened intently.
One of the things the speaker stated was that she starts every morning, not with a focused meditation per se, but rather with a conscious mental conversation reviewing the things for which she is grateful in her life. She does this before she even gets out of bed. She said that some people may call this a prayer. Others may make a more formal attempt at recording this mental conversation and keep a gratitude journal. She chooses to simply review in her mind the things in her life that make her happy, that bring a smile to her face, and that she believes she needs to give thanks for.
I was intrigued by this because I do the same thing. Most mornings, I spend a “snooze” worth of time mentally reviewing the things for which I am grateful, those things which I need to work on, my plans for the day, my worries, my concerns, my goals. This sounds like it might take a while, but in reality, it takes less than the 9 minutes before my alarm sounds again. Given that I have a strong faith, this turns out to be part prayer, part reflection, part mental to-do list.
I find those mornings where I am rushing out of bed and don’t take those extra few minutes to reflect are the days when something seems a bit out of sync in my life. I need that time to pause … to be still … and to be thoughtful and thankful. And, when the Medical Doctor who was speaking shared all the health benefits of taking those few extra moments to reflect, I was even more grateful that I have developed this habit in my life.
Too many people focus on the negative things going on in their lives, to the detriment of recognizing all the positive things for which they should be grateful. It’s the proverbial half-glass-full vs. glass-half-empty perspective. Why focus on the negative side of something when you can focus on the positive side … simply by just shifting your perspective slightly?
Going through a divorce is one of those times when many people have a hard time focusing on the positive. The anger, fear, and loneliness can at times present a situation where even the most optimistic of individuals has a hard time seeing those things for which he or she can be grateful. I suggest that there are always things to focus on, and I’m a big proponent of using humor when all else fails.
One woman I spoke with recently was really down in the dumps about her pending divorce. Like many women, she was scared, unsure of what the future would bring, and her self-esteem and self-image had been knocked pretty hard. She was having a hard time being optimistic about anything, and was pretty blunt about letting me know that she wasn’t an optimistic person in a good year, let alone in a year like the one she was living through at that moment. I smiled, and told her that no matter how small, we would be able to find something about her pending divorce for which she could be grateful. I encouraged her to come up with something … anything!
I got her to crack a smile. She told me she was grateful that she was no longer sharing a bed with a man who farted in his sleep! Perfect! Score 1 for the optimistic and grateful side; 0 for the negative side! She smiled again and told me she was grateful that she would no longer be finding his toe-nail clippings on the floor next to the toilet! Score 2 to 0! You can see where we were headed! She was able to find something positive to occupy her thoughts for a moment. Granted, these weren’t earth-shattering positive thoughts, but they were thoughts, they were things for which she was grateful, and they did bring a smile to her face! Success!
Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys.
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