Gratitude changed my life

By Leslie Turnbull via theweek.com   Article

I skeptically tried practicing gratitude. It completely changed my life.

“Supported by solid research and ultimately confirmed by numerous longer-term studies, the [positive psychology] field had burgeoned by the time I learned about it. ‘The gratitude thing,’ as I had called it, was but one small and simple element of the practice. Kind of like training the brain to focus on joy, my friend Heidi explained.

‘It’s only a week,’ she urged.  ‘Try it.’ I did. And guess what? It worked.

Every day for a week, I found five distinct things for which I was thankful. They had to be different every day. I couldn’t get away with just being grateful for my wonderful husband. But I could, suggested Collie Conoley, another colleague and noted positive psychologist, express my gratitude for specific aspects of a certain person each day.

He’s a great cook. He always puts our family first. He’s a stone-cold fox.

By the end of that week, I found myself slowing down a little. Taking time to notice things I might have walked past before, like a monarch butterfly or a bunch of students laughing together in the quad. One good thought led to another. These kids are so smart. And optimistic. It gives me so much hope for the future!

… I read a glowing review of business executive and lecturer Sheryl Sandberg’s latest book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding JoyIn it, Sandberg — a tragically young widow — outlines how the practices I’ve come to identify with positive psychology helped her emerge from the crippling morass of grief and reclaim a measure of joy in her life. I thought, If she can do it, so can I.

I started looking for my five moments of gratitude in each day. Like riding the proverbial two-wheeler, it wasn’t hard to get back in the swing of it once I got started.

I am surrounded by love.

Friends brought meals every day this week.

My oldest son took his vacation to come and help out at home. He took me to all my medical appointments, and made me laugh by titling his spring break, “Driving Miss Leslie.”

An unexpectedly wet spring and the quiet kindness of a colleague with a green thumb made sure my plants stayed alive until I could care for them again.

… and he may be more  gray than not, but my wonderful husband is still a stone-cold fox.

Life will never be perfect. I still see news stories that distress me. The traffic in my city is maddening. I wish I could speed up my recovery. But with just one simple exercise, I’m rediscovering the serenity of that old prayer: accepting the things I can change, working without complaint to change what I can, and being wise enough to know the difference.

And all it took was a little gratitude.”

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