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Grumbling Towards Gratitude

November 15, 2023

I live in California so I know a thing or two about saccharin and woo-woo, hippies and rainbows, full moon dances and sparkles. I have a love/hate relationship with all the positivity. I practice it and shun it. Ridicule it and need it.

One of the alleged sacchariny things that gets bandied about a lot, especially during the Thanksgiving season, is the Practice of Gratitude.  When I’m feeling acerbic, acidic and blue, practicing gratitude seems fake to me. I don’t FEEL grateful. I feel irritated, overwhelmed, jaded… like I want to sit on a barstool in some dive somewhere and talk raspily with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth.

Write in your Gratitude Journal! Play soft music! Have a cup of tea nearby! “Gag,” says my inner cigarette chomping barstool maiden.

But alas, that swilling side of my personality has it all wrong. Study after study after study shows that “feeling grateful boosts happiness and fosters physical and psychological health, even among those already struggling with mental health problems. Practicing gratitude shifts inner attention away from negative emotions. People who are grateful feel less pain, less stress, suffer insomnia less, have stronger immune systems, experience healthier relationships, and do better academically and professionally.” (Psychology Today)

The American Psychological Association defines gratitude as “a sense of happiness and thankfulness in response to a fortunate happenstance or tangible gift.” Even old Cicero, a Roman philosopher born in 106BC, said “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

Gratitude is a two step process, a one-two punch for goodness. “First comes the acknowledgment of goodness in one’s life. Second, gratitude is recognizing that sources of this goodness lie outside the self.” (Positive Psychology)

And for my barstool spinning self who often gazes at her own navel for far too long, gratitude has a reputation as an “other-oriented emotion” (Greater Good Science Center) meaning it’ll pull me up and out of my own spin of too much self reflection and moping and shine a light on y’all.

Of course, balance is everything. It’s vital to acknowledge, grieve, and share the hard stuff happening in the world and in our lives. But mixing that in with true gratitude will breathe some badly needed oxygen and relief into our grumbling selves.

Best to all your others whom I am so grateful to and for.