Cultivating a thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us. ~ James E. Faust
Refining and deepening gratitude is an output of trials and suffering. When things are going well, gratitude helps us celebrate and enlarge our goodness. But according to author Robert Emmons, it is truly under difficult times that we have the most to gain from being thankful.
In the face of brokenness and despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope and even to heal. But we all know how hard it is to FEEL grateful when we are in a crisis. That is why it is critical that we focus on BEING grateful, which is a choice, rather than FEELING grateful, which is an emotion (and we cannot control emotions, only actions).
Don’t get me wrong, I know how hard it is to BE GRATEFUL in the face of adversity. It’s an effort. But I also know personally how valuable and satisfying it is to fight for that choice.
Our suffering, whatever form it may take for each one of us, can actually deepen our gratitude, as it reveals what is precious and meaningful in our lives, and directs us on a path of growth and change.
Scientists agree- studies show that cultivating gratitude is a kind of immune system – it psychologically cushions us for the difficulties, levels up our balance on priority, increases our confidence in life’s ultimate goodness, and steadies us for the unpredictable nature of our daily lives. People who have cultivated a ‘Thankful Heart’ are more resilient to stress, minor or major.
This is more than “positive thinking”, which actually can have the opposite effect. Endeavoring to create a spirit of gratitude does not require you to reject, neglect, or deny the difficult, painful, or devastating things in your life. Instead, cultivating gratitude is about empowerment. It is about accepting the negative experience and then uncovering the opportunities or positive impact it may have had in your life.
Studies show that analyzing negative experiences to identify the positive aspects that came from them, things that make us feel grateful – has a powerful effect creating more closure, less long-term emotional impact, and reducing intrusive thinking such as “why did this happen” and “could it have been prevented”. Simply venting about negative life experiences, without processing the resulting positive outputs or outcomes, could not produce the type of change that results from actively cultivating a grateful spirit from the event.
This Thanksgiving, think about how this national holiday of gratitude was born from hard times – for everyone. The negative experience of foreigners, indigenous, nationalists, and slaves during the founding of this country can never be forgotten. But it can be transformed into a global heart of gratitude for what we learned, what we have, who we are becoming if we focus on cultivating a Thankful Heart.