When I am having a bad day, the last thing I want to be is grateful . Annoyed, maybe. Or possibly angry, stressed out, vindictive, and confused. But feeling grateful will take me a lot further than negativity will, even if I need a magnifying glass to find some small thing to be grateful for.
Optimism is a life skill that doesn’t come naturally to most people. It has to be cultivated, and it’s almost like faith because it is the evidence of things unseen, yet hoped for. Keeping a gratitude journal is one way of cultivating the art of gratefulness.
A person is like a compass, caught between two magnetic poles – negative and positive. The more of myself I dedicate to the positive side, the more grateful I become. But this involves effort. Instead of being sucked into the undertow of a bad mood because of the nail that punctured my tire on the way to work, I can grab the branch of gratitude and be thankful that I had a spare tire in my trunk to fix it.
People who have cultivated an attitude of gratitude can find a silver lining in almost anything. Take this instance:
When I worked, every Friday I had to attend a staff meeting. Our boss (a legend in his own mind) who loved hearing the sound of his voice, would prattle on and on in a monotone, ad nauseum, about subjects of little or no importance to our work. I would sit in the back of the room, playing hang-man or tic-tac-toe with a co-worker, counting the dots on the ceiling tile, or silently counting backwards in French and then Spanish. I dreaded those meetings because it was all I could do just to stay awake.
One Friday, after an especially long, drawn-out meeting, I asked a fellow co-worker what she had thought of it, and – being a grateful human being – she mulled over my question and then answered:
“Well, Jen. . . The coffee was hot.”
Just like my grateful co-worker, we can learn to find the silver lining and save feeling resentful for something that really deserves it!
It’s a fact that happy people have better immune systems, get sick less often, and – many times – even live longer. They produce more endorphins and dopamine, which are hormones and brain chemicals that promote a feeling of wellbeing. Unhappy people produce too much cortisol and epinepherine, stress chemicals that weaken the immune system. This, alone, would seem to indicate the importance of producing those good chemicals.
When you are having a bad day, you can read a section of your gratitude journal and feel your negative thoughts and bad mood begin to lift. Every time you accomplish this, you are improving the quality of your life, regardless of the situation.
I am grateful for a husband who loves me, for my children and grandchildren, for our health, our income, and our friendships. I am thankful for my freedom, for our pets, and for life’s second chances.
What are you grateful for today? You can start your gratitude journal right here!