By Virginia Eaton —
I recently received a social media message about gratitude — I was challenged to list the things for which I am grateful, not just once but for seven days in a row! My first response to these sorts of messages is to immediately delete; I am a grateful person, I always say thank you, I appreciate when life goes smoothly but I can’t imagine that anyone would be particularly interested in my list — my amazing children, my fabulous friends, fall colors wet with rain, sunsets that paint the horizon every shade of orange… While the list is endless, no one but me would find it very interesting.
I felt pretty grouchy about being grateful which seemed a little oxymoron-ish. But interestingly, as I was wrapping up an exercise class, I felt compelled to ask my students, “What are three things that you can be grateful for that your body did for you today?” The answers were versions of “my body got me through this day,” but the answers weren’t the remarkable part. The laughter that came as people discovered the idea of being grateful for their body was thought provoking.
My curiosity was peaked and a little digging revealed a whole group of researchers who study gratitude, including one in Berkeley that study the health benefits of being grateful. According to these researchers, gratitude can reduce stress hormones like cortisol and may increase feel-good hormones like oxytocin. The process of acknowledging the blessings in your life seems to stave off depression, lower your blood pressure, and can even make you sleep through the night. Turns out gratitude may be the answer for what ails us all.
Rather than just making a laundry list, the Berkeley gratitude gurus suggest taking a moment, or a few moments, to savor your gratitud. Picture it, remember it, and sit with the feeling of gratitude before moving on to the next item on your list. If finding opportunities for gratitude is difficult, try imagining things in your daily life, such as your car, were to disappear. When you think about being car-less and the hardship that brings, gratitude for what you do have may be easier to recognize. So while I am still not a fan of social media challenges such as these, I am grateful for the reminder to be grateful for the good days, the rough days, the life that I have and all the things that comprise it.