My sweetheart survived a high-speed car crash yesterday. His vehicle was T-boned by another driver who blew through an intersection crossing the state highway on which he was driving. Jason’s car was sent airborne and flipped twice before coming to rest on its roof. The kindness of strangers dug him out of the snow and extracted him from the interior. He walked away with two cracked ribs. The two people in the other car also left the scene of the accident largely unscathed.
Today we celebrate. Events like yesterday’s car accident bring into sharp focus all that for which we are grateful. Gratitude for living to see another day; truly, the sunrise was spectacularly lovely this morning. Gratitude for head, spine, neck, back, and limbs being spared harm; the ability to move and walk, even with a dull ache in the rib cage. We are appreciating a sturdy vehicle, seat belts, functioning airbags, and the fleet of first-responders who arrived on the scene. We are appreciating the kindness of strangers who raced to the vehicle and started digging through the snow.
Gratitude Killer: Taking Things for Granted
It is easy to forget how wild and precious life is; it is easy to take the varied aspects of our lives for granted, as long as life is going smoothly. The practice of living from an “attitude of gratitude” is a way to combat complacency, long before life hands you a specific reason to wake up grateful.
As, Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, points out,
“When times are good, people take prosperity for granted and begin to believe that they are invulnerable. In times of uncertainty, though, people realize how powerless they are to control their own destiny. If you begin to see that everything you have, everything you have counted on, may be taken away, it becomes much harder to take it for granted.”
Research in the field of Positive Psychology, has also found the power of living with a grateful heart and state of mind extends to one’s personal health. Turns out, grateful people have 10% fewer stress related illnesses, are more physically fit, and have blood pressure that is lowered by 12%.
So, how can you up-level your state of gratitude, well before life hands you a lemon, and you find yourself digging deep to squeeze drops of lemonade out of it? Many people have discovered the practice of keeping a Gratitude Journal an effective method for keeping tabs on all the good stuff happening to them.
Gratitude Enhancer: The Gratitude Journal
I am a big fan of this practice; it helped keep me grounded and sane during my own foray into times of challenge and change. I don’t recall from whom or where I got the idea. It was long before I became acquainted with the body of study known as Positive Psychology. All I know is this: focusing each evening, on who and what I was grateful for, helped keep me feeling appreciative and intimately aware of how connected I was to others through their acts of kindness.
Interestingly, research from Dr. Emmons’ lab points to the benefits of keeping a Gratitude Journal; as his site states, “In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events.”
Additionally, gratitude also helps us cope with crisis. Research, according to Dr. Emmons, shows us that consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude builds up a sort of psychological immune system, which 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.
Keeping a Gratitude Journal is a great way to develop or refine your gratitude muscle. While writing daily entries may be a hard practice to maintain, sitting down even once a week and spending, for example, a few minutes on a Sunday evening, is a fantastic way to dial into, and savor, all the good stuff taking place in one’s life.
I’m still a fan of the Gratitude Journal and write frequent entries as a powerful reminder to myself of all the goodness, beauty, and miracles which continue to emerge in my one, wild and precious life. To me, these words by Dr. Robert Emmons, completely capture the power and essence of the practice of keeping a Gratitude Journal:
“In gratitude and humility we turn to realities outside of ourselves. We become aware of our limitations and our need to rely on others. In gratitude and humility, we acknowledge the myth of self-sufficiency. We look upward and outward to the sources that sustain us. Becoming aware of realities greater than ourselves shields us from the illusion of being self-made, being here on this planet by right—expecting everything and owing nothing. The humble person says that life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed. Humility ushers in a grateful response to life.”
So why wait? Start right now. Begin a list.
What is happening in your life, right now, for which you can be grateful?