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Gratitude Works, 7 Ways

If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.
-Meister Eckhart

by Dr David, Publisher / Editor

'Tis the season to feel thankful. And if you are one of those "Bah, humbug" types, I've got good news for you. Gratitude works.

1. Gratitude improves physical health and makes you more likely to take care of your health.

2. Gratitude improves psychological health, increasing happiness and reducing depression, resentment, frustration and regret.

3. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression, increasing sensitivity and empathy toward other people, decreasing the desire to seek revenge.

4. Grateful people sleep better.

5. Gratitude improves self-esteem and your ability to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.

6. Gratitude increases mental strength, reducing stress and playing a major role in overcoming trauma.

7. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. Saying "Thank you," is friendly.

(See the article in Forbes.)

Point number seven, that being polite has social benefits, is not really news. Your mother told you, "Be nice," coaching you over and over, "Say, 'Thank you.'"

"Mama tried, Mama tried." Still, the magic of those two little words really came home to me a couple of decades ago during a conversation with a new acquaintance. We were talking philosophically about life. Suddenly, when I made a point with which he agreed, he exclaimed, "Thank you." The words burst out of him, as if he had been waiting, eagerly and for a long time, for someone to say what I had just said, as if my saying it were a personal, urgent relief to him.

He could have said "I agree." He could have said it with the same exuberance with which he said "Thank you," but it wouldn't have had the same effect.

During our brief conversation he blurted out "Thank you" three or four times. It made me feel understood. It made me feel great. It changed my life.

Calculating as I was, the first thing I realized was that I could interrupt anyone in any conversation by interjecting a "Thank you." Then, while they were absorbed in the neurological rewards of being confirmed in their opinion, I could change the subject. In dire straights, to this day, I still fall back on this strategy.

I was aided in this somewhat cynical realization by a public service announcement that was on television when I was a kid. Two black women meet in a supermarket produce aisle. One says to her fat friend, "I haven't seen you for a long time. When are you due?" Her friend responds coldly, "I'm not pregnant." There is an awkward silence. The woman who has just put her foot in her mouth says timidly, "Thank you." The offended woman looks at her like she is nuts." The offender repeats, this time lavishly, "Thhhank you!" The offended woman melts, her face softening, returning with equal enthusiasm, "You're welcome!"

When I moved to Mexico I became more conscious of courtesy. I was and still am particularly impressed with the universal custom of saying "goodbye." People say it when we are whizzing by each other on the street; "Adios." They don't say "Hello." They say "Goodbye." For a while, like the Beatles, I wondered, "Why, why, why, why do you say "'Goodbye'?" Now I think I get it. It's a cultural thing; "adios" doesn't always translate as "goodbye," any more than "padre" always translates as "father." (See Ezequiel Ruiz's article this week, Padre, Madre, Awesome.) Still, when leaving a party, Mexicans say goodbye (nos vemos, "see you", usually) to everyone, even if they haven't said hello or any other single word to you during the party. With a tendency to just slip away from parties, I'm still getting used to that one. Most remarkable, and charming, to me is the way complete strangers wish you "Buen provecho" (bon apetite) as they are leaving the restaurant. (Again, with the leaving.)

Mexican courtesy is evident in the emails I receive. These always begin with a salutation: "I hope all is very well" or "How are you?" being the most popular.

A Mexican friend told me that he likes the curtness of his neighbors from the north, particularly the way emails from extranjeros (gringos) get right to the point. I am of the opinion that a dose of gringo efficiency would generally be good for Mexicans, in the same way that a bit of Mexican laid-back-ness is in most cases good for us extranjeros.

I've taken a dose of my own medicine, Mexican politeness having had an effect on my emails, at least. I don't care how many exchanges are in the particular correspondence or how brief my response is to their last, particular question, I always begin the email with "Hola" followed by their name. And I always end it with "Gracias y saludos" (or "Gracias, saludos, suerte," if they are writing about their project; or "Gracias, saludos, felicidades," if they've just had a success).

Signing my emails with "Thanks" might appear odd to my correspondent, particularly when they are asking me for help publicizing their event. After all, the vast majority of such publicity I provide without cost. But I am grateful, to have the opportunity to serve these folks and the larger community through my event calendar and articles.

When we value a gift that we are given we are both grateful and happy. When we don't value the gift we are neither.

Valuing our experience makes us healthy, wealthy and wise. If you think that this is just Pollyanna foolishness, see points 1-7 above.

Each moment that we are given is an opportunity. Sometimes it is a difficult opportunity wherein we must assert, develop or let go of parts of ourself. Sometimes the opportunity requires work; we must get creative and make something of it. But what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger, no?

As the monk said, it comes back to something else that your mother told you, this time about crossing the street, "Stop, look and go."

Stop - avoid the rush; get quiet; build stop signs into life.
Look - count your blessings; recognize the benefits you enjoy, including running water and electricity.
Go - approach life with the new vision and strength derived from your gratitude, remembering that the greatest happiness is happiness that is shared, and, by extension, when everyone is happy.

Happy Thanksgiving.

**************

Dr. David:

My Open Mind Project

Buddhists masters insist that "Normal reality is enlightenment." So, if we are not okay with normal reality, if we have a problem with how things are going, then we are somehow missing the point. Our experience has a point, a point of view, and we are missing it. What we need is a new, more inclusive perspective.

Normal reality is enlightening. As I quoted above, "As long as you don't know how to be people in the midst of enlightening realities, you only exercise your minds in the mundane world." We have been conditioned to interpret our experience in certain narrow ways. We suffer because we rely on those faulty interpretations.

We shouldn't blame others for our experience: feelings, emotions, hurt... We shouldn't blame our experience, judging it as wrong or bad. We need to see things in a new light. We need an open mind to learn the lessons of our experience. Then we can graduate to other experiences, or become more comfortable, friendly, positive, enlightened with reality as it is.

That's what my Open Mind project is about.

The website is coming soon.
To learn more now write me at:

events @ sanmiguelevents.com

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