Friday, June 10, 2011

Grateful, Full of Grate?


There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy.
— Ralph H. Blum

Gratitude means thankfulness, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging what you receive. It means learning to live your life as if what you are given isn't a...given.

What if everyone were to do it?

What if everyone were to be aware that they have PLENTY.  That people are there for them.  That the earth provides.  What if we began to notice the niceties of life?  The bagger at the grocery store.  The guy or gal who delivers your mail, rain or shine.  The person who restocks the shelves.  The kid who remembers to close the gate.  The spouse who cleans the hair out of the drain after every shower.  The child who remembers to call when they "get there".  That aunt who always remembers to send you a birthday card.  The kind stranger who smiles instead of frowns when you accidentally cut them off on the road.  That hydrangea that renews itself with the rain.

Studies show that being GRATEFUL can actually improve one's life by making it happier, by making one more resilient, by strengthening relationships, by reducing stress, by improving health!  It's a win-win situation.
It seems likely that having a positive approach to life, that expressing your gratitude, and that thinking positively is the key to living a satisfied and fulfilling life.

So, what about that child in your life who is NOT grateful.  They are the Eeyore we all know and love.  Certainly most families have an Eeyore.  The child for whom the glass is always "half empty".  The child who seems to see the gloom, the negative, the things wrong with their day.
If you have one of these children, you know just what I mean. You fear for their ability to enjoy life, to sustain, to persevere, to be happy!  And grateful.

Eeyore, the old grey Donkey, stood by the side of the stream, and looked at himself in the water.
"Pathetic," he said. "That's what it is. Pathetic."
He turned and walked slowly down the stream for twenty yards, splashed across it, and walked slowly back on the other side. Then he looked at himself in the water again.
"As I thought," he said. "No better from this side. But nobody minds. Nobody cares. Pathetic, that's what it is."
Winnie the Pooh

Eeyore doesn't WANT to be gloomy.  It is his nature to be so.
If you have a child in your life who has difficulty finding the gratitude, it IS possible to gently remind them to look on the brighter side.

It is true that, if you look for the positive, you will find it.  If you look for the negative, well, you will find that too.  Both are there every day.  The child with those grey-colored glasses will have a difficult time seeing the good, bright, happy, positive, sunny.  It is their nature.  Studies prove that some people are genetically predisposed to a lower rate of "happy".  
Therefore, we have proven, in our own family, that those who, by nature, have a difficult time achieving happiness can use these three activities to sort of short-circuit the negativity and deliberately seek happiness.

First, a child (or adult) who struggles to find sunshine can purposefully take the time to seek gratitude situations.  Certainly, this person will be able to identify the things in the day that were not pleasing.  With practice, this person will also be able to locate moments or events that are, truly, good.   Given the reminder, the displeased person can deliberately use their eyes in a new way...with the intention of seeking the goodness or the pleasantness.  It helps to have a guide.  
 With the child in our family who identifies strongly with this propensity to view the world through pessimism and cynicism, we have noticed that her ability to identify moments of gratitude have increased with practice, with assistance.

Secondly, when a child takes the time to think of others, they can't help but feel good.  I have noticed my child recently giving out compliments and smiles...of her own free will!  After doing so, she were heard to say "I feel great when I compliment someone!"
My beloved child learned that an improved sense of well-being came from this selflessness.  Ironic.

And, finally, expressive writing!  We have learned that writing about "self" creates a thoughtful environment for more reflection.  For a purposeful evaluation of the day.  For finding satisfaction with the day.  For goal setting.

All of these activities require a deliberate approach to "finding" happiness.  And, therefore, to "finding" gratitude.

I have a sign on the wall in our home that reads:  

Being happy is not the result of being happy.  
Being happy is the result of being grateful.

THEREFORE, the original point of my blog post today, giving assist to the difficult-to-satisfy person to locate SATISFACTION in life!  The solution is to live a deliberate life.  And to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
Loving a person who has difficulty locating the pleasure and fulfillment in life is a day-to-day job of parenting deliberately.

I have to add one more thing about parenting this child.  Ever since I became aware of the "naturalness" of her negativity, I have learned to give her a great deal of freedom to express her moods, her dramatically swinging moods.  We frequently discuss the thought patterns that contribute to the gloomy moments.  In doing this, she has become aware that she is "allowed" to be the person she is as well as to assist her to find that person she wishes to be.  I try to truly LISTEN to her, even when she is one hundred percent negative.  Because that negativity is very real to her.  I remind her that her very strong feelings are valid and cared for.  I see the rare moment when the sun shines through..!  
And, most important, I am giving her the tools she will need as an adult dealing with these same issues.

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