Walking one evening along a deserted road, Mulla Nasrudin saw a troop of horsemen coming towards him. His imagination started to work; he saw himself captured and sold as a slave, or impressed into the army. Nasrudin bolted, climbed a wall into a graveyard, and lay down in an open tomb. Puzzled at his strange behavior, the men — honest travelers — followed him. They found him stretched out, tense and quivering. ‘What are you doing in that grave? We saw you run away. Can we help you?’ ‘Just because you can ask a question does not mean there is a straightforward answer to it,’ said the Mulla, who now realized what had happened. ‘It all depends upon your viewpoint. If you must know, however: I am here because of you, and you are here because of me'”
Shah, I. The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin. E. P. Dutton, New York. 1972. © 1966 by Mulla Nasrudin Enterprises, Ltd.
“Gratitude is a feeling that depends on thinking: it is ignited in the receiver’s heart not only by another’s kind action but also by his or her own attention, awareness, understanding, reflection and openness… The fact that gratitude is an emotion helps it to motivate. In conjunction with thinking it produces a decision
— Margaret Visser – The Gift of Thanks
A key to feeling more positive is to experience the joy of gratitude, a powerful emotion that opens our lives and minds to new possibilities. Whilst it can be challenging to believe, especially in a mind that is currently clouded with suffering, it can be cultivated. The following will help you do this.
Making a weekly note of just three things you are grateful for in your life (and I mean grateful for) will help you reach fulfilment. Gratitude journals and other gratitude practices often seem simple and basic, yet the results are overwhelmingly positive. Studies show that people who practise gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:
• Stronger immune systems
• Less bothered by aches and pains
• Lower blood pressure
• Exercise more and take better care of their health
• Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
• Higher levels of positive emotions
• More alert, alive and awake
• More joy and pleasure
• More optimism and happiness
• More helpful, generous and compassionate
• More forgiving
• More outgoing
• Feel less lonely and isolated
Don’t just go through the motions. Research suggests that keeping a journal is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing you’re thankful for carries more benefits than a simple list of many things. Get personal. Focusing on people you are grateful to have more impact than focusing on something you are thankful for.
Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without specific blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things. Savour surprises. Try to record unexpected or surprising events, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
Please don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily writing. Studies found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterwards; people who wrote three times a week didn’t.
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