“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
Remember those times when your children were giving you fits, behaving like holy terrors, and you thought to yourself (or said aloud if you were supremely annoyed): “You ungrateful, little brats”?
Being unappreciative or ungrateful is directly connected to the adolescent bone. Oh, sure, once in a while a child or teen is genuinely thankful for help they’ve received or a material gift they’ve been given but more times than not ... easy come, easy go ... the spoiled brat syndrome.
Give them some time. They will learn. If they don’t, they will wish they had as certainly will others.
As people age, most learn gratefulness because they have experienced perilous times during which they were deprived of the basics. They have lived on the other side of the coin, at one juncture or another, and it wasn’t pretty.
When adverse circumstances force a person to do without something vital– whether it is money, a job, a person, heat or shelter, transportation or even love – it often serves to make the individual immeasurably thankful for these things when he does acquire them.
Generally speaking, the older the person, the more grateful he is when basic needs are met because he knows this is not a sure thing.
The older individual knows not to take things for granted and has learned to distinguish between needs and wants. The ‘wants’ can wait.
The older person has discovered, often the difficult way, there are no guarantees. Life is as likely to kick you in the butt as it is to hand you a rose.
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Expressing and Feeling Gratitude Improves Your Health
You may not be aware the ability to feel gratitude actually boosts your physical and mental health. How so?
According to Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, those who are capable of feeling and expressing gratitude, rather than focusing on emotional issues and illness, are healthier and happier.
The study of ‘gratitude’ is a part of a movement called positive psychology, which is the process of studying virtues and strength that enable individuals and communities to flourish. This type of psychology focuses on positive emotions, positive individual traits and positive institutions.
These studies reveal a pattern among those who are grateful. Grateful individuals recognize that the help they received from another was costly to the giver while valuable to themselves. In other words, the grateful person fully appreciates the lengths the other person went to, including the sacrifice, expense, inconvenience and time spent in assisting them.
Young children and young adults may not fully appreciate the worth of another person’s actions and generosity and consequently not be fully indebted, when they should be. For example, if the dad always comes to the rescue when the kid’s car breaks down, the kid may not value the worth of this gesture until dad is no longer available.
“As you get older and wiser you realize that when people are given anything without having to earn it (unless they are physically or mentally utterly incapable of earning anything), they become ungrateful and lazy. They also become less happy.”
~ Dennis Prager
When people behave ungraciously this has a detrimental impact on their relationships. Contrariwise, those who are grateful and gracious are in better mental and physical condition because they are not participating in self destructive behaviors and have better and more enduring relationships.
Strange as it may sound, acquiring a sense of gratefulness can safeguard against heart attacks, according to a study done at the University of Connecticut. The study focused on patients who survived a heart attack and became more appreciative of life, rather than resentful and negative, as a result of the experience. This group proved to have a lower risk of suffering a subsequent attack because of its positive attitude.
Grateful people are not only at lower risk of experiencing a heart attack but also sleep better. Disturbed sleep can be the result of many things including depression and anxiety. It is hard for a person to be grateful and focus on the positive when distressed thus their sleep is disrupted as well as their waking hours. Those who can maintain a positive attitude and a sense of gratefulness rest much sounder and easier than those who can’t.
“Does not the gratitude of the dog put to shame any man who is ungrateful to his benefactors?”
Robert Emmons believes those who engage in grateful thinking derive emotional, physical and inter-personal benefits. Gratitude is a choice and a thinkable response to life experiences, notes Emmons. Those who are grateful appreciate what they have and don’t spend the bulk of their time grousing about what they don’t possess.
It’s November, the month in which we celebrate Thanksgiving, and when we collectively gather to give thanks and be grateful for, basically, pretty much everything.
If you have become a grateful person, be thankful for that.
Your parents and grandparents may be long gone but Thanksgiving, as well as every day of the year, is a good time to reflect on what they did for you, the sacrifices they made, and express your gratitude, whether in a silent prayer or openly at the Thanksgiving table.
Remember those who gave you a leg up at work, the bosses and co-workers who helped with no strings attached.
What about those teachers who spurred you on, assisting you in seeing and realizing your potential, or the friend who had your back when nobody else did, Or the neighbor who ventured out into sub-zero weather to fix your on-the-fritz furnace because he knew you would be an icicle by morning if he didn’t get the furnace up and running.
Let these people know you are eternally grateful for their help and actions, particularly so if it was something they did for you years ago, but which you haven’t forgotten and never will.
Call them. Send them a note. That will make them smile and feel good. It will make you feel pretty good, too.
Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism back in the dark ages (aka before computers, the Internet and cell phones. Heck, before electric typewriters!) A former newspaper writer/columnist and photographer, her fiction and non-fiction work has been published in national magazines. A full-time freelance writer, as well as an avid gardener, an artist and yoga aficionado, Cindi is a Baby Boomer and proud of it. She has survived the gnarly challenges of the sandwich generation and lived to tell the tale. Cindi has somehow managed to stay married to her first and only husband for nearly 35 years. They are the parents of three grown children and the grandparents of one. She has five large, raucous dogs, five acres to mow on her beloved zero turn mower, and gets the biggest kick out of making people laugh on Facebook. (P.S. She refuses to cut her hair short.)