Everyday Theology: Life is an invitation to gratitude

"Despite the positive benefits of a grateful disposition, gratitude does not come easily to most people."

Our brains are “like Velcro for bad experiences, but Teflon for positive ones”, according to neuropsychologist Rick Hanson PhD and neurologist Richard Mendius MD.

The brain’s tendency towards the negative makes it difficult for us to be grateful, even though practicing gratitude is really good for us. Research has shown positive links between gratitude and blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and kidney function. Grateful people have better sleep quality, exercise more frequently, and are happier and more altruistic than less grateful people.  Yet, despite the positive benefits of a grateful disposition, gratitude does not come easily to most people.  It requires practice.

Some ways to practice gratitude include keeping a gratitude journal, writing a letter of gratitude to someone (even if you never deliver it) and making a point of saying “Thank you”.  It can be helpful to have a daily cue that reminds you to count your blessings (it could be as simple as putting on your shoe).  Reading inspirational literature, meditating, praying, reflecting on your day, and savoring the moment also help to make gratitude a habit.

Richard Emmons PhD is one of the leading authorities on gratitude. He writes that gratitude heals, energizes and transforms lives.  He compares gratitude to a stone structure. The foundation is joy, the ability to see the good. The cornerstone is grace, the ability to absorb the good. The capstone is love, returning the goodness that one has received.  All of life, he says, is an invitation to gratitude.

Because of the brain’s negativity bias, it is natural for us to overlook life’s invitation to gratitude. We frequently operate from the philosophy that “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence”.  We fail to recognize the good in the ordinary, and when things are going poorly, gratitude is the last thing on our mind.

It is easy to be grateful when life is humming along like a well-oiled machine.  But by fostering a disposition of gratitude we are better able to handle the disappointments, pain and suffering that is part of being human.  Gratitude helps us to put negative and painful experiences in context, and to find the silver lining in every cloud.

Materialism and ego get in the way of becoming a more grateful person.  Consumerism feeds our restlessness and fuels our dissatisfaction. We become focused on what we do not have, instead of appreciating the things we do have.  Our ego fools us into thinking that we are entitled to more, and that we are the authors of our own good fortune. Gratitude, though, is always directed towards someone or something other than the self.

Emmons defines gratitude as “an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received” and “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves”.

Thanksgiving is a natural time for us to give thanks for the good things in our life. To whom or what do we direct our thanks?

Louise McEwan is a freelance religion writer with degrees in English and Theology. Her blog is faithcolouredglasses.blogspot.com. Contact her at mcewan.lou@gmail.com

Just Posted

Snowfall warning in effect for Kootenay Boundary

Environment Canada warns of heavy snowfall over night, flurries for Wednesday

Trail auxiliary shares proceeds from gift shop

The funds will go to various Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital departments

Renter beware: Online rental scam happening in Trail

Don’t be giving anyone money if you can’t get keys to have a look or meet the person, realtor warns

Rossland group builds hiking trail FORR everyone

The project will allow people with mobility issues to enjoy the trails in the summer

2019 Colombo Lodge executives

The 2019 men and ladies executives were sworn in at the installation ceremonies earlier this month

VIDEO: Here’s what the B.C. legislature officers are accused of buying

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

Former Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay voted into Baseball Hall of Fame

M’s legend Edgar Martinez, Rivera, Mussina also make the grade

Why would the B.C. legislature need a firewood splitter?

First sign of police involvement in investigation of top managers

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Judge annuls hairdresser’s forced marriage to boss’ relative

Woman was told she’d be fired if she didn’t marry boss’s Indian relative so he could immigrate here

Liberals look to make home-buying more affordable for millennials: Morneau

Housing is expected to be a prominent campaign issue ahead of October’s federal election

Cannabis-carrying border crossers could be hit with fines under coming system

Penalties are slated to be in place some time next year

Man accused of threatening to kill ‘as many girls as I see’

Christopher W. Cleary wrote he was angry because he’d never had a girlfriend and wanted to ‘make it right’ with a mass shooting

Most Read