Imagine a woman who is interested in her own life. A woman whose life is her teacher, healer, and challenge. Who is grateful for the ordinary moments of beauty and grace. Imagine yourself as this woman.
I first learned about gratitude as a potential response to life in Alanon, back in the day. When GA, my recovering alcoholic husband, announced that he wanted a divorce and I discovered that he was involved with a woman he met in AA, I ran to my Alanon sponsor for support. She challenged me to resist the temptation to live in fear of that day 18 months ahead when we would be divorced.
Ginny encouraged me the stay present during every moment of the experience and to maintain a daily gratitude practice of acknowledging the goodness of life even as the world around, and within, me was falling apart. She promised me that if I stayed present, that I would be ready for that far-off day when the “no-fault” divorce would be finalized.
By the time GA and I met at the courthouse to finalize the divorce, I was studying at Princeton Theological Seminary and in love with my new life of study, exploration, and writing. As we embraced after the divorce proceedings, I offered him the blessing of gratitude, “I’m grateful for the gift you gave me. Yes, my world crashed when you left, but it needed to crash. The life I live today is more authentic, joyful, and real. Thank you, and peace be with you.”
I have continued that almost-daily gratitude practice for 20 years and explored the important role gratitude plays in our happiness, healthy adjustment to life’s twists and turns, and physical well-being. I have come to believe that it is a cost-effective way to manage our anxiety and add to our wellness routines!
According to Dr. Robert Emmons and Dr. Michael McCollough, who edited the first scholarly volume devoted to a fundamental human quality of gratitude, there are many emotions and personality traits important to well-being, but a large body of evidence suggests that gratitude is uniquely important.
In their volume, The Psychology of Gratitude (Oxford University Press, 2004), they brought together the work of scholars from a diversity of fields. Their research suggests that grateful people have higher levels of well-being.
These are some of the specific manifestations of well-being inspired by gratitude, gleaned from the Emmons-McCollough research and my own experience:
1. Grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships.
2. They have higher levels of self-acceptance and greater authority and control of their circumstances, their personal growth, and the purposeful use of their capacities.
3. They have more positive ways of coping with life’s difficulties because they are more likely to seek support from others and grow from the experience.
4. They have fewer negative coping strategies because they are less likely to avoid or deny the problem, blame others for the problem, or cope through substance use.
5. They have fewer experiences of bitterness, resentment, irritation, and envy. Although they may experience these negative reactions initially, grateful people pivot/shift from these more readily and turn toward gratitude as their primary response.
6. They cope better during life transitions. Because they are more grateful before the transition, they are less stressed and depressed during the transition, and more satisfied with their lives after the transition.
7. They sleep better because the quality of their lives is more peaceful.
For the next two weeks, consider ending each day with your own Gratitude Practice. In your journal, list your gratitudes, write a gratitude poem, compose a song expressing your gratitude, or create a collage inspired by each day’s gratitudes.
Email your lists and written gratitudes to us or post them at our IAW International Facebook fan page. We’ll gather your writings into our gratitude collages through December 1.
Patricia Lynn Reilly is the founder of Imagine a Woman International and BAB Coaching and Publication Services. If you’re inspired to take the next step with your book project, visit www.birthabook.com. If you’re ready to author your own life, business, ministry, or self-understanding, visit www.imagineawoman.com for inspiration, opportunities, and support.