At any moment in time, it’s easy to be welled up with thanksgiving when the “big things” in life come around, like receiving an unexpected gift, a promotion, or being cued by a holiday. But that moment is just that, a fleeting feeling of gratitude, and then it’s back to the same-old attitude. Why is it so difficult to have everyday thankfulness for the little things we take for granted, which really aren’t little at all, like clean drinking water, a roof over our heads, and food to eat? The key to unlocking this virtue may be an understanding of the reasons we struggle to maintain a grateful attitude. Sometimes, gratitude is the victim of short-term memory loss. We forget all about our past and current benefits and grumble on forward. We tend to take for granted the people closest to us and simple, everyday things in our lives. This ungratefulness shapes our interactions.
I recall, after Hurricane Sandy, being without electricity for several days, and, when the power came back on, I was overwhelmingly grateful. Today, I don’t have that same attitude, since I’m not without. I leave lights on when I shouldn’t, and everything that has a plug is in an outlet, and I’m not being very energy conscious. (Don’t judge. You aren’t, either). I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder.
So, again, why is it hard to keep a positive attitude and maintain inner gratitude? There could be a link to a theory related to positive thinking and negative thinking. The latter is coined Brain Negativity Bias. According to Wikipedia, Brain Negativity Bias is a psychological phenomenon in which humans have a greater recall of unpleasant memories, compared with positive ones. Humans are much more likely to recall, and to be influenced by, the negative experiences of the past. Basically, our brains tend to focus on negativity, and this could very well be a major cause of our uphill battle to thankfulness. Some modes of thought explain that this is in place as a survival mechanism, allowing us to detect and to respond to dangerous stimuli. So we are fighting nature and our own brain. Ugh!! Are we just natural-born ingrates? If we are always leaning into our negative thoughts and experiences, then thankfulness is almost out of reach. I did say, “almost.”
There are ways to foster gratitude by consciously focusing and engaging our brain in an empowering choice to be grateful. We can also develop a small ritual of sharing something we are grateful for each day or writing it down at the end of the day. With the reference of a journal filled with grateful moments, perhaps we can reverse our short-term memory loss. One of the most gracious ladies I know on this planet shared with a large group of women her experience with bitterness, and she did not like the woman she was becoming. She decided to write down three things she was grateful for every day for 30 days. Some days were a major stretch, like the ability to breath in air, but she continued to focus on the positive gifts each day gave her. It must have worked, because, like I mentioned, she is incredibly gracious, and people would have never known she was going through a hard time.
How will you maintain the spirit of Thanksgiving 365 days of the year? Happy Thanksgiving!
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com