By Marguerite Jill Dye
“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around,” Willie Nelson wrote.
Who’d ever imagine how great the power of gratitude is? Just making a list for a couple of weeks of two or more experiences we’re grateful for each day boosts our energy, enthusiasm, determination, and alertness for more than six months! The “positive psychology” of gratitude, optimism, happiness, forgiveness, altruism, and compassion improves our physical, mental, and relational well-being. “Negative psychology,” focusing on mental illness, trauma, addiction, and stress, has the opposite effect, according to “The Transformative Power of Gratitude” at huffpost.com.
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance,” Eckhart Tolle observed. “Gratitude and attitude are not challenges; they are choices,” Robert Braathe added.
Spiritual leader and author Louise Hay’s meditations and affirmations have helped millions around the world. “How we start our day is often how we live our lives. … Every thought I think is creating my future,” she said at a Hay House World Summit I was privileged to attend. It was also the day I first heard Nick Ortner introduce the “Tapping Solution,” also known as EFT, the Emotional Freedom Technique, which I wrote about in an earlier column.
Back in Killington on our deck, I had a revelation while tapping away to undo my critical nature: that the antidote to criticism is gratitude, and that criticism often stems from a need to control. It’s a distraction from anxiety often learned in childhood. When I began to tap, my critical nature measured eight on a scale of one to 10, but a few minutes later, its level had dropped to one. Not bad for a few minutes’ work. What I came to understand is that when gratitude is held foremost in my thoughts, there is no room for criticism or anxiety. Thinking positive thoughts instead of negative ones transforms life dramatically. Like attracts like. It’s the Law of Attraction. Positive thoughts create positive experiences.
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has,” Epictetus stated.
I can think of no finer example than our friend, whose focus on gratitude is blessing his life a thousandfold. Instead of thinking about what he can’t do, coping with a rare, progressive genetic illness, he strives to keep fear away by being grateful for his loving relationships. I also think of my mother, whose hearing loss from whiplash could have turned her life upside down, but instead of focusing on the negative, she modeled Norman Vincent Peale’s “power of positive thinking.” Mom blazed through life, inspiring many with her sense of humor and can-do attitude. I’m grateful Mom instilled a positive outlook on life in me.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more,” Melody Beattie shared. “It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity … it makes sense out of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
Most people I admire have suffered a loss or life-altering trauma. Instead of giving up, they picked themselves up, focused on positive thoughts, and became victors instead of victims. But when we need a helping hand or divine intervention, if we’re open to receiving the help, another’s spark may rekindle our own.
“Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us,” Albert Schweitzer taught.
“We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count,” Neal A. Maxwell said.
We have the power to turn our own and others’ lives around. If we know of anyone suffering in pain, excluded or shunned, let’s recall our own darkest night and reach out in friendship, compassion, and love. Perhaps our kind letter, visit, or call will be the blessing they desperately need to continue and find the strength to heal and truly love themselves. Sometimes our souls have taken the blow and need healing the most. The body is only a reflection of our souls.
I’m grateful Dad read A. A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” to me as a child. Its wisdom still holds true today: “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between the Green Mountains of Vermont and Florida’s Gulf Coast.