By Nancy R. Catan, BCBP Manila
The other day I came across a little book that summarized for me the attitude of gratitude that we need to cultivate in order to enjoy life in its fullness. Many times in today’s busy world we tend to take things around us and even things that happen to us for granted without actually being aware of them. I learned long ago that such acceptance without question or awareness did not really put meaning into my life. It was only when I learned that having an attitude of gratitude would bring me joy and peace and the ability to accept what happens as God’s will for me. In other words, being grateful, to me, is one very good way of growing spiritually and nourishing my soul.
The title of this little book by M.J. Ryan is Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day Of Your Life, a Pauline publication. I would like to share a few of her statements on Gratitude. Ms Ryan, the author, believes that gratitude is not just the key to a happy life. “It’s a magic key – all you need to do is to use it, and the world is suddenly transformed into a beautiful wonderland, in which you are invited to play.” She firmly believes that gratitude is the mother of joy and peace of heart.
Gratitude births only good, positive, uplifting emotions of thankfulness, love, compassion, joy, and hope. As we focus on what we are thankful for, the negative emotions (fear, doubt, anger, bitterness, contrariness and envy) simply melt away. The atmosphere around us becomes more supportive of the good, the right, and the positive in life. I have found that, instead of complaining or criticizing right away like I used to do, I now look for the something good in the situation, happening or person. Scripture reinforces this in Romans 8:28: “In everything God works for good … with those who love Him and who respond to His purpose for their life.” God creates something good in everything; I just need to be aware and look for it. I have made this verse my “mantra” and it has brought me much contentment, peace and joy.
How can we find the attitude of gratitude in everyday life? I have found the following things that help me nourish this spirit of thankfulness valuable. When I make an effort to simplify my life, to reduce my daily list of things to do to only the really important things, I am able to have time for even just a short period of solitude and peacefulness. And I have realized that it’s not just having the time, but it’s the quality of the time that makes the difference. This may involve releasing attachment to some of my “treasures”, even to some of my favorite “desires” and “wants” but this effort is well worth it in terms of gaining lightness in spirit.
If I can’t find the time to get away from the city, I take a weekend or even just a day or half day for a retreat at home. It is very de-stressing to sit in our garden terrace with my journal and a cuppa herbal tea to review the blessings I have received that day, that week, in the past month or so… and thank God for each and every one.
I have found that voicing out (either internally or aloud) positive affirmations of faith during the day lifts my spirit and puts hope in my heart. Affirmations like “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want that You cannot supply” or “Jesus, my Lord, Savior and Friend, I love you and know that You love me” or “Lord, please help me see the good in this disaster”. I thank the Lord whatever the outcome of the problem is with an affirmation of trust and love “Lord, thank you for this blessing even though I am not sure at this time that it is a blessing, but in love, I trust in You.”
Embrace the unknown and thank Him for loving you enough to challenge you to leave your comfort zone and grow in your relationship with Him. So many times in my life, the Lord has taken me away from my comfort zones, depositing me in entirely new circumstances, in order for me to grow closer to Him. Often He has used these experiences to teach me so that I will be able to help others who are struggling with a similar experience. I have learned to thank God for these challenges, trusting that He knows what is happening, even if I don’t.
Don’t limit this attitude of gratitude to yourself and God; share your thankfulness with others. Thank your daughter for her smile this morning and give her a warm hug. Thank your son for picking up his room. Thank your officemate for sharing her merienda with you. Thank your spouse for loving you unconditionally. Thank your neighbor for his patience during your kids’ noisy party last night. Thank the traffic aide with a wave and a smile for keeping the traffic at the intersection flowing well. I am sure you get my point.
Some of the benefits of living with a grateful heart as listed by Ms. Ryan are that gratitude makes us young, makes us feel good, promotes health, eradicates worry, and draws other people to us, people that we will enjoy being with. Gratitude opens our hearts, spawns kindness and generosity, and opens us to moments of grace even as it joins us to all life and connects us with His Spirit.
One practice that I learned many, many years ago is to keep a simple notebook or journal in which I list down every evening at least five things of that day that I am thankful for. The key to creating awareness is that each and every day in making my list, I must not repeat any one of the blessings listed in previous days. In other words, I will be alert knowing that each and every day will bring me at least five new things to be grateful for. Wow! This practice really made and continues to make a difference in my life.
I challenge you, my friends, to adopt an attitude of gratitude and enjoy the difference it will make in your life.