Is Gratitude the Healthiest Attitude For A Life Well Lived?

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I'm grateful for everything, even Mattie: The Black & White Tornado

I’m grateful for everything, even Mattie: The Black & White Tornado

They say that with age comes wisdom, but as Bill Coffin once quipped, “sometimes wisdom comes all by itself.” I’m not sure how much wisdom I’ve accumulated over my accumulating years, but one nugget I try to live by is this: Always Be Grateful. Gratitude is not a bad way to go through life. In fact, I’m increasingly convinced it’s the healthiest way to journey through life!

I am making a conscious effort to live more gratefully. As a Christian, I begin my morning prayer time in gratitude. Over the past few months, I’ve taken on a peculiar practice. At the beginning of my prayer time (and you need to know that my typical prayer time is while I walk our Cocker Spaniel), with outstretched arms I raise both of my palms upward and, juggling the leash, I pray:

Gracious God, I acknowledge that everything about my day is a gift from you. So I receive it as a gift knowing that nothing I’m blessed with belongs to me. They are gifts from you, for this day. At the end of this day I will give it back to you. Help me to live this day  with deep gratitude for the abundant blessings you give to me.

Then, I give thanks for particular things like my wife, my family, my health, our new home, my job. I push myself to find new things to be grateful for each day. Alternatively, at the end of each day, with outstretched arms I turn my palms upward and pray:

Gracious God, I thank you for all the gifts I’ve been blessed with this day; those I’m aware of and those I’m unaware of. Because everything I have is a gift from you, I now give them back because they don’t belong to me anyway.

This simple practice of holding my palms upward to receive and give back is a metaphor reminding me to loosen my grip on the things I once thought were my possessions. The entire process of changing jobs and moving has helped me see how important it is not to hold on to anything too tightly.

Being able to ‘let go’ of the things I once cherished and to see everything in my life as a gift has been challenging, yet liberating. It’s been a challenge learning not to see things in my life as possessions to hoard with tightly clenched fists. Yet, it’s liberating to see things like my parents, my home, my financial portfolio and even my wife as gifts to celebrate for the day and, then, give back to God. I find I’m more grateful; less possessive; more appreciative and less anxious.

I think we spend too much time, energy and anxiety trying to hold on to the ‘stuff’ that we most cherish. Yet, everything we cherish has a beginning and ending and we have very little control over the things we hold on to so tightly. In my next post, I’ll provide more reflections on beginning and ending the day in gratitude. But for now, I’m realizing that we came into the world clutching and grabbing and will leave with nothing to hold on to…except the One who holds us and never lets us go.

Dr. Doug



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