27 Varieties of Gratitude
Instead of a single anti-anxiety tool this week, there are 27 of them. For some research on how gratitude helps reduce anxiety check here, here and here.
And here's the Index of all toolkits and The Mini-Toolkit: For Those with Little or No Time.
Variety 1: I can't help it--I like it when people appreciate my generosity. If I let a driver merge into my lane because they didn't seem to know which lane was right for them, or if I wave at a pedestrian to cross in front of me, even though it might make me miss a light, or if I cook a nice meal for someone, it's really nice to be thanked! It offers me a simple sense of connection with them--I feel a part of a kinder gentler world, at least for a little while. And it encourages me to be generous again. It may not be as noble as not needing to be thanked, but that generosity/gratitude interchange offers a really nice feeling.
It's also true that I tend to get annoyed if someone doesn't indicate their thanks. "Hey!" I think. "I just gave you something--you could at least acknowledge it. It only takes a second or two to wave! Grrrrrr!" Except that sometimes my language is a tiny bit stronger. (I am definitely not a saint!) It doesn't ruin my day but it is a small irritant.
So, I was really interested to stumble across the following, online :
When others are grateful toward you for what you have done, it makes you want to do more for them. This has the same effect on the Universe. When you are grateful for that which you receive from your life, you put a positive loving energy out toward all that is, and it will only create more. You want to give to those you feel are grateful, and not those who have no appreciation for what you have given them. Gratefulness makes life flow with ease, the way it is supposed to be.
What a fascinating idea. I know that generosity and gratitude both help me feel better (though not if I over-give out of guilt). And as I noted above, I feel good when someone offers a bit of gratitude for something I have done. But it hadn't occurred to me that this also works in my relationship with God--or "the Universe" if you prefer. That's a cool concept. Not that I think God/the Universe goes "Grrrr!" if I don't say thank you. It's just an opportunity for a nice little connection.
So, that's the first variety of gratitude, a sense that micro and macro might follow similar patterns.
Varieties 2 - 22: This week I also re-discovered a lovely gift given to me by a friend over five years ago. It's a list of 21 questions, each one offering a different way to approach and journal about gratitude. Originally offered by kindspring.org in 2013, it's known as "The 21 Day Gratitude Challenge." Perhaps you've heard of it? Here are a few sample questions:
Day 1: What do you have enough of?
Day 6: Which artist lights your world?
Day 13: Who inspires you to be your best self?
Day 14: When has nature taken your breath away?
Here's a PDF of all 21 questions.
My friend, bless her, not only printed the list of questions for me but wrapped it in lovely swirly blue paper that she had designed and printed herself. So thoughtful. So creative. Thank you so much, Ms. G. Your gift keeps giving.
Variety 23: Keep a gratitude journal. You can list things until you run out, or pick a fixed number of things to list each day, say three, or five. Or ten.
Variety 24: Pick one thing a day you are grateful for. It could be a person, an event, a song, something in nature--anything. I love listing lots of things, but it is also really nice to focus on one thing. I like to write that single thing on a small piece of paper and carry it in my pocket for the day, or put it where I'll see it frequently. Or write it on several pieces of paper and leave them in strategic places. It soaks in better that way. You could deposit these slips of paper in a basket or jar or box, and take them out at the end of a week or a month to remind yourself of your blessings.
Variety 25: Find a picture that represents something you are grateful for. Glue it in your journal. Or carry it around all day. Or link it to your phone's calendar.
Variety 26: Wow--that is, the Zapchen exercise: Look at something in the natural world, or a loved one, or anything you like. Open your eyes wide and say the word "wow"...drawing it out for several seconds. Notice the amazingness of what you are looking at.
If this sounds familiar that's because it was the anti-anxiety tool of the week a few weeks ago--remember Santa? But it's worth revisiting so soon because it's an excellent variety of gratitude. There's a bit more detail about "wow" at that Santa link if you want to check it out.
Variety 27: I saved the toughest for last--and I don't claim to be able to do this! Try saying, "Thanks for everything. I have no complaints."
Yikes! I almost always have complaints! But it is an interesting exercise to try, or at least consider. It is attributed to an ancient Shin Buddhist devotee named Sono. Or maybe she (he?) was a Zen master? I couldn't find much more than that when I searched but whoever said it originally, it is what I call post-doctoral spirituality (that is, harder and more intense than PhD spirituality.).
I try to practice gratitude in my life. As with mindfulness I stumble, get distracted, or fall into the grumps. And, as with mindfulness, it's best to not pay too much attention to all that, or to beat up on myself for being human. I just try to remember to notice that I've strayed and go back to being grateful. It helps to have a lot of varieties to choose from.
Until next time,