My apologies to those of you who got a blank copy of this last week.....ooops!
So.....ultimately being grateful is the most selfish, self-serving thing we can do. We are pickled in our brains. The more you can truly understand this concept, that the cleaner and healthier that you can make the environment inside your head, the happier and more peaceful you can be. Which means doing a lot of intentional overwriting of the negative that was either interpreted or taught to us through our life experiences, how people treat us and how we treat ourselves.
Remember the poem by Dorothy Nolte "Children Learn What They Live"? Here it is.
Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte
Well.....it's no different when we get older. Somehow, people drop this premise and start talking about each other as 'assholes' and 'bitches' and forget that people's spirits get damaged by unkindness and unfairness. And the most important person who needs to learn this is yourself....because even if you don't say it out loud....your spirit can hear your negative, critical thoughts about yourself.
So, if I were to rewrite this poem, it would sound something like:
If you choose to criticize yourself, you will learn to condemn yourself and others,
If you choose to hang around people who are hostile towards you or you are hostile towards yourself, you will learn to fight,
If you choose to live in fear, you will learn to be apprehensive and not experience the abundance of opportunities there are in the world,
But that doesn't necessarily mean that you will know how to be appreciative and grateful. These are skills. If you didn't grow up in an environment where people said 'Thank you' or wrote thank you cards or spoke their gratitude out loud, then you may not even know what gratitude and appreciation sound like. Gratitude is about taking the time to notice all of the wonderful things that are going on around you .....even if you are going through hard times.....and purposefully noticing and appreciating them.
And you can keep it simple...
There is a website called 100people.org that gives the statistics for the world if the world were a village of 100 people. (Updated 2016) And what you learn is that 14% of the world's population are not able to read or write; 60% don't have an Internet connection; 22% have no shelter; 9% have no safe drinking water; 12% are undernourished and one is dying of starvation. So gratitude starts with the basics. Our basic needs of food, water, housing, education. And those things provide an enormous amount to be grateful for.
Moving on from our basic needs we can appreciate that we have great health care and services re: roads, laws that most people follow which keep our community behaving in a fairly civilized fashion, First Responders to come to our aid if we are hurt or in crisis. Not everyone has families who are caring so we have neighbourhoods, community centers and religious institutions to help us to feel more connected.
There is no end to the abundance we live in......just stop comparing to the media and all the things we are told that we are 'supposed' to have. That's just a marketing ploy to get us to buy stuff. Compare down. That will always help you get in touch with gratitude. When you listen to the news, which has such a tendency towards the negative, be grateful that you and your family are not the ones in the war torn country or the apartment building that burned down. And practice building that appreciation muscle. Make eye contact with people, smile and say thank you. You will both feel better for it! Of course, don't forget, you are creating new neuropathways in your brain. It won't come easily just because the concept is easy. You have to practice.....one day at a time.
Thank you for reading my blog posts and giving me the feedback that they are helpful, it helps me stay connected to you and to know what is useful. I will be taking a break over the summer as I have changes that are requiring my extra attention as well as taking some summer holidays. I will resume these posts in September. If you want to challenge yourself to grow in gratitude, summer is a good season to start. Try keeping a gratitude journal and starting and ending the day with just two or three things that you are grateful for. Let me know how it goes.
Here's Alanis Morisette's 'Thank You' ....which is 20 yrs old this year! How'd that happen?? So, before I start complaining about my age, I'll just add some gratitude that I am really enjoying how healthy and happy I am in my body and I'm valuing my ability to get around because I have friends who haven't been so lucky.
Have a wonderful summer and thank you for your feedback!