Attitude of Gratitude

December 25, 2008

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Thinking about all I have to be grateful for is a simple and profound practice. I don’t remember where I learned it but there have been times when I have kept a gratitude journal and at the best and worst of times would list at least 5 things, and sometimes many more, per day that I was thankful for. Now when I wake up in the morning I always think about how lucky I am that I have a comfortable and warm bed, a roof over my head, a wonderful family and a group of friends that I love and who love me.

Today is Christmas and this year my boys have requested no gifts because they have everything they need. We will give to others who have bigger needs. The having all we need versus having all we want is the key to the kingdom for our society in this crazy time of economic shift. I am grateful that my boys are learning that we do not have to always be acquiring things, that we can be be comfortable with what we have, and that being together and spending quality time is more valuable than stuff.

Many people teach about creating an attitude of gratitude and the health benefits. I found a beautiful website describing a nice way of creating a gratitude journal. I know that the world starts looking different, hopeful and shinier when I recognize and appreciate what a great life I have, how wonderful my family and friends are. Of course the ups come along with the negatives and the downs. Let these vintage but spot on lyrics by Johnny Mercer run around your brain while you listen to Bing sing:

You’ve got to accentuate the positive

Eliminate the negative

Latch on to the affirmative

Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum

Bring gloom down to the minimum

Have faith or pandemonium liable to walk upon the scene.

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Being Nice

December 17, 2008

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Sometimes being nice may not be healthful. Doing things because they are the right thing to do or because it is expected of you can be stressful. While being nice to co-workers and other business associates can be a good long-term strategy, what about in day to day life with acquaintances? How about the person you feel obligated to invite over for a holiday party that you have no relationship with, you haven’t seen in a year and has not invited you anywhere- but is a friend of your other friends? So to be nice, you invite, yet you resent opening your home to them?

Dr Carol McCall used to call being nice, niasty- being nice when you don’t really mean can easily be read as nasty underneath the sugar-coating because that’s what it is, isn’t it? How can we mean it? I think we can learn to be compassionate towards ourselves as well as towards others.

I remember a birthday party when I was maybe 7 or 8? My mother “made me” (do we have choice as kids?) invite everyone in my class to my party. In retrospect I think it was a good move and intended to keep peace. I had to see those kids everyday and there were only around 13 of them. There was one girl who I didn’t resonate with at all. I ended up having a meltdown at the party because I so didn’t want her there. Now I’m at an age when it is unseemly to have a meltdown- so where does one stuff the resentment and how to release what gets stuffed? Maybe not making it mean so much, not connecting it to a big story is a good start.

I hear and have many stories about the stresses of this holiday season. What do we buy into that we can avoid? Obligations to buy gifts that we perhaps don’t feel we can afford? My son, Micah, is suggesting to all his friends that the biggest gift one can give is directly letting someone know how you appreciate them by writing a letter to telling someone. That is a huge gift and I know that is what we’ll be doing in my family this year.

Havi and her duck have some interesting views on her blog post www.thefluentself.com. Things you can try to remember to do when confronted with family issues, rude cousins and the like at holiday get-togethers. I like the one about locking yourself in the bathroom.  

Other experts suggest listing your resentments and looking for the key cause. Most likely what you can be experiencing is an expectation that the present is like the past. BUT, it isn’t. Every moment is new and an opportunity to make your relationships and your life fun, joyful, fulfilling as well as forgiving of your self as well as others.