Back on the old paths of the 1970’s, the famous motivational speaker Zig Ziglar coined the catchy phrase, “Have an attitude of gratitude.” If ever there is a week that corporate gratitude fills the atmosphere, it is the week of Thanksgiving.
Probably most pulpits across our nation were filled with pastors preaching on thankfulness this past Sunday. Elementary school children made crafts that illustrate giving thanks. Even older students may have had an assignment that involved writing what they were thankful for.
I love this pervasive gratefulness! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it lasted beyond “Turkey Day”? It would do us all good, physically as well as emotionally.
Science is on my side here. In three separate experiments done at a West Coast university, grateful people fared better than ungrateful ones. Test subjects were split into two groups. Group one kept a weekly gratitude journal, while group two instead recorded daily hassles. The folks in group one got better sleep, exercised more regularly and had a more positive outlook on life than group two subjects.
Who wouldn’t want those benefits?
Oprah Winfrey is a major proponent of keeping a gratitude journal and has done so every day for nearly 20 years. She testifies that it is one of the most important things she has ever done.
I recently read the story of a man who had heard Oprah push the gratitude journal for years. He sort of “pooh-poohed” the idea until one day when he was simply miserable. Suddenly he decided to write down 30 things he was grateful for. He declares that by the time he was done, his mood had been transformed from grumpy to cheerful.
Another person stated that her whole disposition changed when she began taking a few minutes each morning and night to list five things she is grateful for. It could be as simple as the air she breathes or the cozy comforter on her bed.
When Zig Ziglar’s close friend said he had never seen Zig down, he was asked the secret. The friend replied that he had never met anyone as grateful as Zig. One of Zig’s employees said he could never remember seeing his boss unhappy or pessimistic. Zig died in 2012 at age 86; perhaps his gratitude contributed to his long, prosperous life.
“Well, you don’t know what I’ve been through,” you may say. Would it help if I told you that Zig was the 10th of 12 children and lost his dad at age six, with his younger sister dying two days later? Zig’s mother was left basically penniless to raise her large family.
Tough times in life do not doom us to a pattern of bad breaks or a pessimistic demeanor. “But I’m just a grumpy person by nature,” you argue. Maybe you are. But you can change your nature.
As an ordained pastor who is currently preaching on “Having An Attitude of Gratitude,” I have been using Scripture to prove you can take every thought captive. But in case you are not a religious person, I will use science, which has proven the brain can be trained to view the world differently.
Your brain takes in over 11 million bits of information every second, but you can process only about 40 of them. Scientists say we can practice screening out the negative while scanning for the positive which will eventually result in an optimistic mindset. Instead of problems, you will begin to see possibilities and potential in every situation.
And it’s not just the Bible and science that preach we can shift our perspectives on life. Even New Agers agree. Many of them believe our bodies consist of many vibrations which create auras around us. They believe that gratitude increases good vibrations (shades of the Beach Boys) and that negativity decreases these “vibes.” I’m not a New Ager, but we are on the same page here, albeit with different terminology.
I hear so many desperate people wanting their lives to change. They have two choices here: they can be passive and wait for the world around them to change OR they can be active and change the world around them by changing themselves. Being grateful can help do that.
With Thanksgiving already here and Christmas just around the corner, I’ve been yearning for my annual dose of “White Christmas.” One of my favorite parts is when Bing Crosby (“Bob”) sings to Rosemary Clooney (“Betty”), “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, And I fall asleep, Counting my blessings.”
See what I mean about better sleep? Ole Bing was right.
Tempted to complain about having to clean your house? Remember the many people who would love to have a house of their own to clean. Whining again about your beat-up old car? Think of those who would give anything to have a vehicle to drive. Kids making you want to pull out your remaining hair? Imagine the barren couple who long to hear children’s voices inside their quiet home.
When you think about what you have instead of what you don’t have, Oprah and Zig say you’ll actually end up having more. I think they’re right.
I told the congregation on Sunday that I was embarking on a 15-day quest to “have an attitude of gratitude” with no complaining or whining allowed. That gets me to Sun., Dec. 6—the first evening of Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights). If I decide to carry it on for 30 days, I will end up on Mon., Dec. 21—the final day of fall and the winter solstice. I even have a Facebook event page you can join if you would like to take part in this experiment and receive encouraging posts about gratitude.
I believe I will emerge from this time of pure gratitude as a more optimistic, cheerful person. If we joined together in this, we could definitely change the world. That’s worth a little bit of gratitude, isn’t it? Let’s make “Thanksgiving” a lifestyle rather than simply the fourth Thursday in November!
Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at email@example.com. Her blog is at http://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com.