Cultivating Gratefulness

gratefulSo last year I got into reading a little positive psychology…the art of how to be happy.  Read a few books (like this one), browed a bunch of blog posts (like this one), watched a few documentaries, thought about it quite a bit.  Some of it is pure BS.  Some of it isn’t.  But it was an interesting little phase of thought that I’m not sure I’m out of yet.

One of the pieces of the positive psychology research surrounds cultivating gratefulness.  Learning to count your blessings, see silver linings, and ultimately alter your day to day, minute to minute, perception of life, from focusing on negatives to focusing on positives.

I think this is one of the aspects of positive psychology that isn’t BS.

I have a ridiculous amount of things to be grateful for, but I would say my default setting, the way my mind naturally works, is to focus on the negative aspects of my life.  I’ve always thought like a pessimist, and I have a tendency to see the problems in my life as all-encompassing.  Like my whole life is one big problem.  When I get to thinking that way I’m miserable and sad.  It sucks.  So I’m trying to stop that.

One of the ways that you can supposedly do that is to set aside specific times to count your blessings.  Literally list them off, maybe out loud, maybe on paper, maybe in your mind.  I have been trying to list 10 things I’m grateful for in the morning and 10 things before bed.  I usually forget to do it before bed.  But I’m trying.  So I’m going to take a little time right now and list off some things that I am grateful for.  Things that I take for granted but are awesome.  Things that I should consider blessings from God.

1. I have hot water in the morning.  Every morning.  I can rub it on my body.
2. I have a shelter that keeps me warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
3. I have a bunch of really good friends who sometimes bake me things and always make me laugh.
4. My mom and dad love me.
5. I have a mom and dad that I actually know.
6. My brother and sister in law are awesome people.
7. I ate Chipotle yesterday.  I can eat Chipotle whenever I want.  And I can get chips.
8. Happy hours exist.  I can get beer there.
9. I get summers off to do whatever the heck I want.  Like go to happy hours.
10. I can run around and play basketball.  My quickness makes up for a poor 3 point shot.
11. I was able to afford to go to college and I went to an awesome college.
12. I have a sexy Honda Civic.
13. I will probably never be hungry for an extended time unless it’s by choice.
14. My grandma sends me fudge on Valentine’s Day.  Tasty tasty fudge.
15. I go to an awesome church.
16. I had a chance to talk to a kid about his credit situation and graduating high school today.  Maybe it made a difference.
17. I have meaningful employment.
18. Dogs exist and are bearers of unconditional love.
19. The sun is out and it shines on me.  It makes my face warm and releases endorphins in my brain.
20. I have really good neighbors.
21. Apples grow on trees and we can eat them.  And we can genetically engineer Honeycrisps.
22. I have leisure time to read mind-bending literature.
23. I have my choice in what to do with the rest of my life.
24. I have a wide variety of teas to brew at will.
25. I’m going to go make some tea right now.

Twenty-five seems like a good place to stop.  I want to cultivate gratefulness.  It doesn’t mean I’ll never be sad.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t have days where my whole life seems like a problem.  But it helps.  It helps me fulfill the mission of loving people.  Because getting lost in your own crap makes you depressed and self-centered, unable to care about anything but you.  Living a grateful life opens me up to loving, serving, and building up others.  And that, I have decided, is what it’s all about.

Used this TED video in class the other day.  The whole thing might be a little bit overdone, but still…take a look.  And cultivate gratfulness…