“Your mantra is thank you. Just keep saying thank you. Don’t explain. Don’t complain. Just say thank you. Say thank you to Existence.” – Mooji
I’m sure you would have heard over and over again, the importance of gratitude. Many world-renowned life coaches, motivational speakers, gurus, scientists and psychologists all concur that an attitude of gratitude is possibly one of the most important attributes anyone can possess and express.
While I agree with this predominant notion and subscribe to living a life of gratitude myself, over the past couple weeks, I’ve been reflecting on this phenomenon even more.
What exactly is gratitude anyway?
Saying thank you? Expressing how grateful you are for something or someone? Being appreciative?
According to Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude, “It is an affirmation of goodness. He says, we affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”
Essentially based on Emmons’ explanation, gratitude is an acknowledgment of all the awesomeness, as I like to say, that is flowing in and through your life.
When you think about it, we have so much to be grateful for.
Let’s start with the simple, yet essential fact that without even having to think about it, we are certain that there is sufficient air for us to take our next breath. Or, the fact that our organs operate and function, without much input from us.Or, the fact that you are currently alive and well enough to be reading these words. And those are just the simple stuff, right?
How about the fact that you are surrounded and supported by people who love and care for you? And you live on a majestic island, with scenery and beauty other people travel thousands of miles to experience. And what about the fact that the sun and the moon are guaranteed to always rise and set when they are meant to.
Without a doubt, we have so much to be grateful for.
I am sure you will agree, that it is quite easy for us to be grateful for the things that are going well for us. When our relationships are working well, our finances are flowing, we are satisfied with our jobs, our health is in check and our kids are doing well. Essentially, when “We are feeling ourselves,” as popularly coined by Patrice Roberts.
However, what about the times, when we aren’t feeling ourselves and things aren’t going as we think it should? Can we be grateful as well?
Exactly, one year ago, I left St. Lucia because I became extremely ill. My body was so weak and off centered, I needed wheelchair assistance to get on and off the plane, when I travelled back home.
Needless to say, it was a bittersweet experience. I was leaving a beautiful island I had called my home for the past 8 months but was headed back to my home country because I needed special care and support from doctors and from my family and friends.
For as long as I could remember, I have always been the type of person to see the best in everything and everyone. In my early years, I spent time training my mind to see the beauty in all aspects of life. This of course lent to being naturally grateful and thankful.
Admittedly though, when your body feels like it is failing you and your life appears to be falling apart, sometimes, even the best of us, wane in our ability to isolate the goodness.
I was in constant pain, having a landmark record of a consistent headache for 2 months on ending with other body pains and physical distortions. It was hard to think clearly, much less feel anything else besides despair.
For the first time in what seemed like a decade, I could not pick myself up out of the funk, I had sunk so deep into. It became even more frustrating when the medical experts who I sought help from, were unable to point me in any direction that would at least alleviate some of the pain I existed in.
Despite my severely weakened physical, mental and emotional state, the one thing I had was a tremendous outpouring of love and support from my family and friends.
My ex-boyfriend took time away from work to care for me and take me to my numerous doctor visits. One of my best friends, visited me every day, always bringing something to cheer me up. My St. Lucia family always called and messaged, sending me best wishes.
In the midst of one of the darkest periods of my life, beauty and light shined through.
Certainly, it was very easy to continue giving my attention to all of the so-called unpleasantness that was happening in my life and not honor and acknowledge the blessings all around me. Thankfully, I decided to give my attention to the latter.
Believe it or not, this was one of my turning points. At the time, I remember purposefully including in all of my responses to persons who asked, how I was doing, “I am grateful and thankful.” My body may not have been well, but I knew that there was so much I was in fact grateful and thankful for and wanted to keep this in focus.
Soon after this realization, I was re-introduced to another doctor. In short, he was the answer to my prayers and the prayers of everyone who was praying for me.
After several failed attempts of being treated by other doctors, I somehow remembered my then doctor, a holistic doctor I had visited in my early twenties. The first day he saw me, he was in shock about my state, however, he was extremely optimistic, ensuring me that we will beat whatever, this ailment was. I loved his energy, and this bolstered my spirits even more and kept me hopeful.
After several tests and assessments, we eventually figured out that I had premature signs of multiple sclerosis, an auto immune disease. The reason why most of the other doctors were unable to diagnose it, was due to how inconsistent the disease’s symptoms were.
This news gave me even more to be grateful and thankful for, as we now had something to work with.
With a starting point, my doctor created a holistic treatment plan which was executed over 6 months. Within 3 short months, he was unable to recognize me as the woman who walked into his office frailer than an aged person. He often retorted; “Is this the same person I am looking at.” I believe he too was blown away by my progress in such a short space of time.
I firmly believe that my change in attitude was the primary reason for my quick and timely recovery, supported by of course the care of my doctor, family and friends.
My thoughts were later confirmed by a book I read during my recovery, and one I highly recommend, Biology of Belief by Dr. Bruce Lipton. Through Dr. Lipton’s studies, he discovered that our cells, which are responsible for the health of our bodies, take instructions from its environment.
The cell’s environment is primarily determined by our beliefs and thoughts. This therefore suggests that if our beliefs and thoughts are not uplifting and positive, our cells represent this state in our bodies.
As such, when I shifted my focus from all that was going wrong, to all that was going right for me and decided to live in a state of gratitude, my cells and body responded, which in turn helped in making me feel better.
“Every time you praise something, every time you appreciate something, every time you feel good about something, you are telling the Universe, “More of this please.” Abraham
Reflecting on that phase of my life, I can now say that I have an even deeper understanding and appreciation of gratitude. I now see and experience it as a recognition of the fact that no matter what, I am always loved and supported.
The bottom line is, it’s all based on what we choose to give our attention to. You can choose to focus on all the things that are absent in your life and the things you perceive as not working for you or you can acknowledge and give attention to what is present and working. The choice is always yours.
Believe me, I am fully aware of how challenging it can be at times to recognize that you are always loved and supported, especially when life’s curveballs can feel unloving. However, if we train ourselves to remember that there is always something, we can be grateful for, something as simple as the breath we are inhaling right now, soon enough, gratitude will become a natural way of life.