GRATITUDE might be the one response that will save you

If you find yourself in a post-election rut this will be the thing to dig you out (and there’s actual science to prove it.)

In the days before the second biggest American tragedy of my lifetime (the tragic 11/9 election of Donald Trump [9/11 being the number one tragedy {imho}]) I was reading a book on the science of gratitude, by Robert Emmons called: Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier. I read about studies that were conducted on groups of people who were being treated for various neuromuscular disorders. Those that were given assignments to regularly write lists of things they were grateful for reported having more energy, better sleep, and higher levels of optimism than similar patients who didn’t write such lists. The researchers found that people who practiced gratitude regularly were healthier and happier than their counterparts who didn’t. You’d think that when this 11/9 disaster struck, I would’ve been ready with my arsenal of gratitude tools to help me deal with what had just happened — but I wasn’t. I wallowed. I had just read about important ways to deal with personal challenges. I mean, I wasn’t living with a neuromuscular disorder, and no one in my family had died — yet it absolutely felt like something of this magnitude had just happened. I did try to tell myself things would be ok, I tried to imagine a world of kind, loving people that would rise up and kick hate in its ugly, stupid butt. But everything I tried only offered short-term relief from the desperation and disappointment I was feeling.

Finally, I went back to the book and realized a key part of the text that maybe I had glossed over (or didn’t want to accept.)I realized that Gratitude is a PRACTICE. It is not passive, it is not one-and-done. Rather, it is learned and cultivated and honed.

This means that while we might understand that being grateful makes us happier, we are not as willing to adopt gratitude as a way of life because it requires something most of us are not willing to do — it requires work.

We recently celebrated Thanksgiving, a day when gratitude is Nationally mandated. Many people gather around an abundant, overflowing table and are passively grateful for family and for enough food to eat. While the men in the group are usually grateful for football and big-screen TVs that allow them to escape the family and the messy table for a few hours. Mandated gratitude is one thing, but this is small potatoes compared to genuine gratitude. We’ve all experienced the real deal — when someone does something so surprising and so kind that we are stunned by the overwhelming emotions felt in that moment. It’s a wonderful kind of heart-bursting because it’s so beautiful and unexpected.

Cultivating a Gratitude Practice means taking meaningful actions that will help us sustain that kind of special feeling — that certain lightness of heart.

In his research on gratitude, Robert Emmons conducted many rigorous, scientific studies, all with the same result, he states:

We discovered scientific proof that when people regularly engage in the systematic cultivation of gratitude, they experience a variety of measurable benefits: psychological, physical, and interpersonal. The evidence on gratitude contradicts the widely held view that all people have a “set-point” of happiness that cannot be reset by any known means: in some cases, people have reported that gratitude led to transformative life changes.

The evidence presented in Emmon’s book was irrefutable. Gratitude as a practice was proven to help with many conditions, even for those suffering with depression.

Certainly I was suffering from a bit of depression. Through re-reading this book I could only logically conclude that the one thing keeping me from feeling better was my own laziness — so I got busy.

I started writing my lists: What am I grateful for today? Who has helped me today/yesterday/when I was younger? Who do I depend on? What valuable lessons have I learned from the bad things that have happened to me? How can I thank those who mean so much to me? How can I express more gratitude in my words — both written and verbal? How can I make gratitude a daily practice?

I have been doing a little bit each day, — writing my lists, thanking those who help me. Taking moments to notice the beauty of the world. And slowly, I am rising above my funk. I am feeling a little bit better. This doesn’t mean I have to be happy about the current state of affairs in our country, but by doing my personal work I am able to raise my personal vibration. By doing this, I am better able to help others to do the same. I’ve decided to refuse to give negative energy to our current National narrative. Because the old mantra is true: “that which you resist persists.”

Through doing this practice, I am healing my psyche and being grateful for moments of clarity and connection.

Because, listen people, moments might be all we get. So, let’s get together and gather our moments like pillows into a pile of love that becomes so squishy and so huge that it will swallow all hate and totally disarm it. Let’s do our gratitude practice as if we were conducting para-military training in our pajamas. Then, let’s all decide to dwell in our blanket forts of gratitude and make a solemn vow to intensely cuddle all those who are brave enough to join us there.

Resistance is not the answer.

Love is.

Let’s prepare our hearts for the coming battle by making ourselves monuments of radiance through our rigorous training — our daily gratitude practice. With a bit of commitment and a lot of discipline we can all become love warriors, completely prepared to snuggle all incoming enemies and totally disarm them with our most dazzling and most grateful smiles.