“I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad,” sang Julie Andrews in the 1965 film, The Sound of Music. This verse from the song, “My Favorite Things,” beautifully sums up an attitudinal shift known as gratitude. Remembering your favorite things, is not only balm for dog bites and bee stings, as the song states, but gratitude has been shown to improve your overall physical and psychological health. So much so, that researchers observed veterans who fought in Vietnam suffered from a lower incidence of PTSD upon practicing gratitude.
The trick is that gratitude takes some vigilance because our brains go toward seeing the cup half empty if we don’t train our brains to see our cup as half full. Being grateful for the life you are presently experiencing can be a herculean feat. During this Covid-19 pandemic many individuals are having a challenge seeing a silver lining. Baby boomers have lost their jobs when they were not ready to retire, others have not seen family members including grandchildren for some time and worse yet, the death of a loved one where a sense of closure has been thwarted due to the virus. The concept of gratitude, may be a hard pill to swallow right now.
This Thanksgiving and Christmas may look a bit different than previous holidays but no matter how the days unfold, you have the choice to change your thoughts. By practicing gratitude for the simple things, such as the sun shining on your face or the delicious food you are eating, you are on the path to truly living a grateful life. Taking it all in, by living each moment to the fullest and experiencing everything that comes your way, you learn to accept both the good times and bad times. Believe that your challenges can truly make you stronger and that your present situation shall pass. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
I can speak from my own personal experience. I have also not been able to see my daughter for a long time. She lives across the country and I do not feel it has been safe to travel right now. Even though I am happy that she is marrying the love of her life next week, my husband and I are sad we won’t be there physically. My daughter and her fiancé have been waiting, already postponing their wedding plans this past summer, and feel they have put off tying the knot long enough. As she puts it, they are “going for it.” I am moving through emotions of hurt and sadness, as I desire to reach to the other side of gratitude. I have had to accept that my daughter’s decision was not to hurt me but because she wants to move on with her life. Instead, I am focusing on my daughter’s happiness.
How to get to gratitude? There are so many books and articles out there and my suggestion is to focus on a simple yet effective technique. The experts recommend taking a piece of paper or keep a journal and before going to sleep, review and recount three things you are grateful for the occurred that day, even if all you can recount is that you remembered to floss your teeth. Baby steps first and soon it will become second nature. As author Maya Angelou wrote, “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.”
Dr. Lisa Cowley, a holistic chiropractor and nutritional counselor of 25 years, along with her husband, Victor Westgate, a high school educator of 34 years, are authors of Pack Lightly: Making Sense of the Second Half of Your Life.