Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Still more on gratitude

I found an article this morning entitled "Try a gratitude meditation to reduce anxiety and depression". Here's part of what it says:
It is easy to get caught up in the comparison game. Competition is a big part of Western culture. We want to have the most and the biggest of everything. Unfortunately, there is always someone else who makes more money, has a bigger house and a better job.

Irrationally, we compare ourselves to those we think have more than we do and we lose every time. We frequently focus on one aspect of their success and we exaggerate it while diminishing the importance of our own achievements. I talk to very successful fathers and mothers who are depressed because they don't have the things their neighbors do.

Comparison thinking results in a depressed mood and anxiety, as well as feelings of guilt and disappointment. It stems from organizing our thoughts in a results-based manner. Our fantasy is that an increase in production will lead to an increase in happiness. In reality, as our production increases, we raise our expectations of what we feel will make us happy.

An effective alternative is to develop an attitude of gratitude. This type of thinking focuses us on what we already have and deepens our love and appreciation for our loved ones and our purpose in life. It results in contentment and a deep inner peace.

To develop the mental muscles required to obtain a higher state of inner peace, commit to five minutes of gratitude meditation every morning. Find a quiet place and concentrate on a mental list of four or five people or things that you are grateful for. It might sound like this. "I am grateful for my loving husband, my beautiful children, my health, my home and a job I enjoy."

As you name each gift, visualize it as vividly as you can for as long as possible. Be aware of how you feel and give thanks. If you do this daily, you will find that your love for others will deepen and inner peace will develop.

Your confidence in yourself will grow stronger and others' success will not take anything away from your own contentment. You will feel happy when others succeed instead of resentful. Research has suggested that people who do this have less depression and anxiety.
I like the recommendation that we visualize each gift. I also think the commitment to five minutes a day is a good one. I would also remind everybody to exercise gratitude for things like being able to walk, being able to see, having the intelligence to understand this exercise and the like. Otherwise, it's easy to get into self-pity if we don't have a spouse or children or a job we enjoy.

There's always something to give thanks for. Look for those things. And really cultivate an appreciation for them.

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