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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police looking for witnesses to East Trail arson

The Trail RCMP report the fire was started on March 28 at around 1 a.m.

Car procession for Trail seniors on Saturday

Physical distancing will be enforced, participants to decorate at home and stay in their cars

Trail Smoke Eaters alumni receive Canucks scholarship

Former Smoke Eaters Jeremy Lucchini and Spencer McLean awarded Vancouver Canucks/LNG scholarship

COVID-19: Interior Health orders closure of all fitness centres until May 30

The order is subject to revision, cancellation, or extension

What you see …

If you have a recent photo to share email it large or actual-sized to editor@trailtimes.ca

Trudeau rejects mandatory stay-at-home order for now; COVID deaths up

The virus has now infected more than 10,000 Canadians and cost 130 their lives

B.C. health care workers gain access to virtual health care options

During COVID-19 many clinics have closed, leaving health care workers with nowhere to turn

Tax collectors, auditors to help field ‘historic’ numbers of benefit-seeking callers

‘If you work for CRA, people think we are just there to take money from your pockets.’

Cowichan couple won’t self-isolate after returning from overseas

New law requires 14 days of self-isolation when returning to Canada

Family uses social media to help truckers find places to eat during pandemic

Restaurants Serving Drivers in Western Canada seeks to provide a list of places open for drivers

Advocates sound alarm over COVID-19 limiting access to contraceptives, abortion

The COVID-19 outbreak has hit sexual-health services from almost every angle

Celebrate Easter in a ‘safe way,’ Dr. Henry urges as B.C records 6 new COVID-19 deaths

Top doctor urges British Columbians to halt non-essential travel within the province

B.C. health officer says homemade masks may prevent spread of COVID-19 to others

Practising physical distancing, frequent hand washing and resisting touching your face are proven methods

Most Read