It was a particularly challenging time.
I was early in my personal recovery. A very close friend and confidante had unexpectedly passed away. Work was stressful and unfulfilling. I felt locked in and victimized by life.
During this time, a colleague who'd introduced me to Unity's New Thought/Ancient Wisdom teachings made a suggestion. He said, "Freshen up your thanks." I was familiar with the power of gratitude and keeping a gratitude journal. I was also aware of how this practice gradually shifts the way we perceive situations.
But my associate recommended that I increase my appreciation. To keep my mind alert for fresh grateful moments, rather than just saying or writing something like, "I'm grateful for my family," he suggested that I get specific. He said I could offer thanks for any seemingly small thing. For example, I could say, "I'm grateful for my comfortable shoes" or "I'm grateful the driver in the car next to me let me get ahead of him" or even, "I'm grateful that I have this fresh, cold glass of water."
When we are constantly on the lookout for things we are grateful for throughout our day, it becomes impossible to stay down in the dumps for very long. After a while, we see more and more of the great stuff that surrounds us and makes up our everyday world.
After practicing my friend's suggestion for a period of time, my whole outlook began to change for the better. Yes, there were still events in life that I did not necessarily like, but they no longer had the same negative effect on me. From time to time, I still make a game out of noticing new things on a daily basis when I feel I need to freshen up my thanks.
The Native American Dakota tribe has built thanksgiving and appreciation into their way of life. They always give thanks before asking for anything, in order to be in the energy of gratitude. This increases their receptivity to the blessings yet to come.
Scientific studies also have proved that freshening up our thanks has a positive impact on our lives. Some of the benefits include:
1. Increased hope and health
Those who increase their appreciation for what they have and what's working in their lives are more hopeful and healthier. In fact, such folks report feeling fewer aches and pains, and are more likely to take care of themselves.
2. Improved sleep
Simply noticing and writing a list of things to be thankful for has helped people sleep better and longer than those who don't regularly express thanks.
3. Boosted self-esteem
In one study, it was found that athletes who gave more thanks toward their coaches or others had higher self-esteem within six months than those who did not express such appreciation.
4. Increased helpfulness and empathy
Those who freshen up their thankfulness on a regular basis are more likely to help others, which in turn boosts their own happiness. Studies revealed that increasing thanks motivates people to express sensitivity and concern for other people.
5. More resilience
Vietnam War veterans who expressed extraordinary levels of thanks were more resilient and were impacted less by post-traumatic stress disorder. They had a greater sense of wellbeing and better moods than those who did not express such appreciation.
No doubt, there is something to my friend's idea of "freshening up our thanks." Make it a daily game in your life and see what happens.
Peace and Blessings,
P.S. Have you reserved your free spot to see Rev. Dr. Gary Simmons on Saturday, March 18? Simmons will present his "Thriving Mission-Centric Ministry" workshop for all of us at SLC, to help us learn the principles of creating a vibrant, modern spiritual community. Our Board of Trustees took this same training last year and decided to invest in bringing Gary back, so we can all experience his wisdom. This event is free for all congregants of SLC, so claim your seat today!