The word gratitude is derived from the Latin base ‘gratus’. This root signifies thankful / pleasing, and also gives us the word ‘grace’. To traverse the rabbit hole a bit, from antiquity we have the Three Graces, the Charites, whose virtues were those of beauty, charm and creativity. This odd reflection on gratitude is only partially stimulated by the recent celebration of gluttony, also known as Thanksgiving. The New York Times ran an article called “A Serving of Gratitude Brings Healthy Dividends”, by John Tierney.
In it, Tierney summarizes the findings of various researchers. Basically, being grateful makes you a better person. The following are associated with a spirit of thankfulness: less depression and anxiety, being kinder and more understanding (especially in established, close, personal relationships), better health, better sleep.
Huh? Simply being grateful does all that for you? Being somewhat of a health nut, I’m thoroughly attracted to this idea. Being strange, I imagine bitterness and discontent changing us on some basic, cellular level. Like a darkness spreading inside and choking out beneficial interactions, slowing things down, making them more difficult and monumental. Still, how does it work? Does the neurochemistry of positivity cascade through other signaling channels, impact cellular machinery is some sublime way?
However it works, I’m intrigued by this notion, and its implications. Factor in the findings of the “gratitude journal” experiment. Participants were asked to write down five things for which they were grateful once a week. They did this for two months. At the end of the experiment, they reported sleeping better, feeling more optimistic, working out more and being happier. Interesting.
Thus begins my own personal Gratitude Journal.
1. Starting off with something small and stupid, I am grateful for my heater. The pilot’s been out since February (about 10 months). In San Diego, a heater is not all that necessary for most of the year. There are, however, ~3-4 months during which it’s a nice thing to have. After huddling under a mountain of blankets for a month and a half, I was very excited to not see my breath on Saturday morning, after SDGE coming out to light the pilot on Friday. Yay!
2. My mom found a sweet dog yesterday. She’d been dogless for two years (since Sammie passed away). My own dog passed away recently, so there’s a bit of a furry void. It’s not the right time for me, but it was the right time for her. The adoption event was full of wagging tails, loving volunteers, and people searching for new four-legged family members. I think Mom and Satin are a good match.
3. I’m grateful for my story, my history. It’s been a strange journey with unexpected twists and turns, and uncomfortable discoveries. It’s taken me inside and out. Still unfolding. Uncovering. Illuminating. Driving me ever forward.
4. Music. Because it makes my soul vibrate. Because it gives me hope that we aren’t just animals. That there is the capacity for more.
5. For out there. Out there is waiting to be discovered, with all its twist and turns. All its beauties and blights. The richer our experience, the greater our capacity for understanding, graciousness, appreciation, and hope. Right now I am open to and welcome out there. I feel the hunger to go further. To seek it out.
What’s in your gratitude journal?