The use of gratitude as a transformative tool has been known to me since about 1980. Right around the time I got the name "Charly" I also got a lot of new and powerful tools. But having a tool and knowing how to use it can be two very different things; the learning curve was steep and long with this one. Cultivating "an attitude of gratitude" is a challenge if your head is filled with stinking thinking, woulds, coulds, shoulds, oughts and if onlies. To choose the action of writing each individual blessing for which you can be grateful at this moment is a concrete task. It interrupts the flow of negative thinking and routes our thoughts to a new act that generates a feeling of wellbeing. It inhibits the old behavior and redirects thought, then action, to the new behavior. It follows a well documented recipe for change that we see in the Alexander Technique, in cognitive restructuring, in dog training, and in many successful approaches to altering behavior.
Writing is itself therapeutic. The act of typing on a keyboard or making letters with a pen or pencil is involving the body in a mental action. It connects circuitry of our brain with our hand and it connects our unconscious and our conscious mind. The study of the human mind has always fascinated me. It has such complex diversity and ability and yet often follows simple and habitual patterns to its own detriment when the conscious mind and the unconscious mind are working against each other. Writing is perhaps the simplest of the ways to access the unconscious and begin collaboration with the cognitive brain. More than once some pearl of inner wisdom has slipped out my fingers and surprised my eyes when I was writing.
Gratitude, according to Wikipedia, is thankfulness, appreciation, a positive emotion or attitude in acknowledgement of a benefit that one has received or will receive. It has been called the highest form of prayer. It elevates the vibration in our body. Meister Eckhart wrote that "If the only prayer you say in your entire life is 'thank you', it will suffice." It allows us to become aware of the interconnectedness of all things. It is an expansion of our consciousness that invites health and happiness to be a regular component of our life.
The simple act of writing a list of your blessings incorporates three proven methods for change: prayer, writing and the stop & redirect approach. Sometimes it is hard to get started and we have to go to the very basics. In Letter to My Daughter Maya Angelou wrote about a time when she was so depressed that she had thoughts of killing herself and her young son. In desperation, she went to see a friend whose response to her suicidal intention was to sit her down with a pen and pad and insist she write her blessings, starting with the fact that she could hear.... then that she could see... could read...... When she reached that last line of her page, "the madness was routed".
The hardest part for me was remembering to use this tool when I needed it. I've learned that if I make gratitude part of my daily practice it is easier to think of it when I have need. I usually start with "I am grateful I can walk", but seeing and hearing and loving follow up real quick. So what are you grateful for today? Go ahead and write it down, try this simple exercise. See how it makes you feel. And if you would like to share something about this experience, click on "Comment" above and there will be a place for you to post your comments. Thank you.