Joy and Gratitude in the Storm?

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Countless researchers doing countless studies have shown the very strong links between joy, gratitude, and all manner of really desirable outcomes, like physical and mental health, success, prosperity.

But few have expressed their findings as sensibly and usefully  as Brene Brown:

“We think that not being grateful and not feeling joy will make it hurt less. We think if we can beat vulnerability to the punch by imagining loss, we’ll suffer less.

We’re wrong.

There is one guarantee: If we are not practicing gratitude and allowing ourselves to know joy, we are missing out on the two things that will actually sustain us during the inevitable hard times.” ¹

I’ve never struggled with avoiding gratitude in trying to ‘beat vulnerability to the punch’ but I have to admit that, especially if we think of joy as including hope and faith FOR THE FUTURE, I’m quite guilty there!

I’m the ultimate “Well, it’s all worked out RIGHT NOW, and thank God, that is AWESOME! … but let’s not get too comfortable” girl. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so it’s entirely too risky to hope for the positive in it!

Anybody else been there?

 

After reading enough studies that I ought to have gotten an honorary PhD out of the deal, I KNEW that wasn’t the most healthy– or,  specifically, health producing – viewpoint.

But I couldn’t quite pinpoint the key facts well enough to apply them until I read Brene Brown’s work on the topic.

It is the joy, and the positive hopes, that build up a healthy enough brain and body to make surviving the tough moments possible!

 

All of a sudden it made sense!

I already knew that thoughts, emotions, etc, basically travel through our bodies in little packages of chemistry.

And I knew that the ‘negative’ emotions, even negative thoughts, travel in chemistry that does ghastly things to our immune systems, nervous systems, digestive systems… pretty much you name it.

I certainly have lots of personal experience with those effects!

And I knew that most of our positive emotions, thoughts, even imaginings, travel in chemistry that tends to repair and nourish our cells.

CLEARLY a critical piece of the ‘Abundance’ puzzle!

Perhaps most important, I had learned that our mind treats negative expectations pretty much exactly like negative experiences. Egad!

I’ve experimented over the last couple years, and dabbled more intentionally over the last few months, and generally found that yes,  cultivating gratitude and joy (even if by arduous act of the will some days) does seem to make me more resilient to the occasional AWFUL!

And wallowing ‘safely’ in the pessimistic (which, alas, is still pretty much effortless) actually DOESN’T seem to protect me!

What it does instead is take the occasional AWFUL and stretch it out for hours, days, weeks, before it even happens!

Even more embarrassing, frequently the AWFUL doesn’t happen at all, but by the time I find that out I’ve ALREADY  suffered all the way through it in my mind!

Example: 

When I learned that my job would be disappearing I immediately thought of never finding as good a job again.

Of having to work in the absolute worst of all possible environments for me FOREVER.

Or sleep under bridges and search for vegetarian scraps…

Not the most positive chemical soup!

Then I got a three month contract for what is effectively a dream job! Even more ideal, really, than I could have dreamed!

And I was truly grateful!

Then I thought, “But what happens after Jaaaanuuaaary?!?! I’ll never find another ….” you get the gist.

Time for a REAL experiment. 

If practicing and cultivating gratitude and joy are critical to resilience in the inevitable hard times – which they are…

And if they also reduce the toxic chemicals coursing through my blood stream day in and day out – which they do…

Then it’s about time to develop a healthier default!

So.

How to change my ways?

How to build UP the healthy defences instead of regularly etching them away with toxic chemical spills?

Starting here, my ‘Retrenchment’ focus is on:

  • gratitude for the blessings I have, including this wonderful three month opportunity,
  • and an attitude of joy in my expectations for the future.

If I can progress on this during a retrenchment, I figure I’ll be in pretty good shape for the normal crises!

It’s not going to be easy. I have YEARS of practice anticipating the worst as a way of ‘protecting’ myself!

But I also have years of experience being sick, stressed out, mental, and frankly, of the AWFUL things still pretty much being AWFUL when they did come … so clearly the ‘protection’ hasn’t been all that effective!

Let’s see what doing it differently will yield …

 

Be well. 

 

¹ Quote is from Dr. Brene Brown’s excellent book The Gifts of Imperfection, in the chapter Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark.

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