A favorite blogger, the Healthy Librarian, published a blogpost about the research behind the “gratitude attitude,” in which she summarizes some of the research studies that conclude that developing the habit of thankfulness is a sure-fire way to quell anxiety, neutralize anger and bitterness, increase happiness, eliminate depression, and improve the quality of sleep. “Who doesn’t want more of that,” she exclaims.
I know I do.
Gratitude is not only thankfulness, but also consciousness or mindfulness of being thankful for the gifts and resources that fill my life. The idea of gratitude with mindfulness reminds me of my dad whose motto was “Be grateful” and who encouraged me always to think about what I was doing as well as why I was doing it.
The significance of my dad’s mindfulness reproof became clear when I happened on a quotation from the French philosopher, Michel Foucault: “People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.”[1. Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. New York: Vintage, 1988.]
Mindfulness enables me to pay attention to my feelings and to the ways I respond to my environment and to the people around me. Mindfulness allows for that critical space between action and reaction in which I can make a choice.
I choose equanimity rather than anger or other emotional responses that keep me off balance. Yelling at someone who cuts me off while driving on the freeway serves no purpose other than to raise my blood pressure; and, I don’t like the way I feel after that kind of reaction. Besides, I don’t know what is going on in that person’s life. Preoccupied with whatever is important to him at that moment, he may not be aware that he cut me off. Stuff happens. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
My dad didn’t need a research study to prove the importance of the gratitude attitude. I don’t know how he came by that wisdom. I do know that it is a gift he passed on to me. I am grateful he did.