Someone sent me a lovely gratitude letter a couple of days ago. I was thrilled, especially since it came on a day when my heart needed a hug.
The writer’s kind thoughts lifted my spirits. I was so very grateful that she was so very grateful and that is how the world turns.
Emotions are contagious. We all know about the boss whose wife yells at him at breakfast so he berates his assistant at work. Then his assistant goes home at night and snarls at his wife, who screams at their child, so the kid pulls the cat’s tail.
That’s the bad news and most of us have lived in a dysfunctional emotional wheel like that at some time in our lives. It is easy to soak up the emotional atmosphere of a toxic workplace or stay long enough in an abusive relationship to begin to believe we deserve the punishment.
The good news is that it works both ways. My surprise thank you letter not only turned my mood around, but I immediately became more generous. By the end of the day, I’d thanked several people and overtipped the waitress. No doubt those people all went on to spread their love outward.
Here’s some more good news… No matter what emotional snarl you’re entangled in, you can always switch gears. Even if your boss yells at you, you can choose to smile at your kid and be nice to the gardener. You are not really trapped in a miserable congo line as you dance through life.
Many of our emotional responses are habitual and unconscious. Some people are shy because they assume all attention will be critical. Others criticize things they think people need to correct because they believe they are being helpful.
When I was a schoolteacher, I learned that kids responded enthusiastically to honest praise and went absolutely deaf if they heard too much criticism. One discipline expert told my faculty meeting, “Follow the student around and lie in wait until you find something you can praise”. It sounded a bit silly at the time but I tried that with an especially difficult youngster and it actually worked.
We are all hungry to know we matter in this world. We want to be seen, to be appreciated and to be loved. We might not use these words but, on a spiritual level, we long to be recognized as the Beloved. Learning to see the good in each other, in ourselves, and in life, is a great way to fulfill our deepest needs.
Since emotions are contagious, we can break the negative patterns by choosing to focus on the positive. Start paying attention to the kind of emotions you are “catching” by talking with your friends. Is it healthy? We have a right to remain silent or switch the subject when our companions talk about the bad world news or their “awful” relationships.
You can actually make a game of moving the conversation onto higher levels when it drifts into negative stuff. When you become skillful, people will enjoy the change in the emotional weather and never even know what you did. Being able to lift the mood of another person is a fabulous talent. Why not learn to do it so easily that it is automatic?
We are in the Season of Gratitude and an honest thank you is the greatest gift we can give one another. This is a great time of the year to practice expressing appreciation for our friends and families. It should be a year round practice but the holidays are a great time to start.
I’m not talking about making it a big deal, or spending a lot of money. I’m suggesting you find a simple way to say, “Thank you for being you,” to the people you love. Make it honest. Send a note. Give a hug. Find a small gift. Spend a few minutes on the telephone. Do something nice for someone else. You will find it works well for your own emotional climate as well as the recipient.
We live in a world where many people learned, as children, to look primarily for what is wrong. There was a misguided kind of intelligence behind this because the basic intention was to diagnose and find a remedy. However, it doesn’t work that way. For example, years of standing in front of the mirror and telling myself, “You’re fat,” made me fatter – not thinner. I only began to lose weight when I accepted myself as I was and began to choose healthy foods I liked to eat. No more criticism. No more deprivation or punishing diets for my sins.
Paying attention to the things we think we need to improve and ignoring the good things is discouraging. It makes us depressed at best and can move us into desolation and despondency, especially this time of year. In New Thought, we learn that what we pay attention to will multiply. In other words, looking at what’s wrong will just bring on more problems.
Especially during the holidays, it is easy to let outside influences make us negative. Holidays are stressful especially if we see what’s not there instead of what is there.
For example, if your kids are scattered all over the world and you are having dinner with friends, you can choose. Do you focus on gratitude for your friends? Or misery because your kids aren’t here? Every breath brings a chance to choose gratitude.
Since happiness depends on our emotional states, let us all help each other to be jolly this season. Each of us who lifts his or her face toward the goodness of life is a link in a chain of happiness that can reach out in myriad directions.
At a very basic level, we are One. What that means is that my happiness is a perfect choice for the happiness of every other person on this planet.
That’s not sophistry, it is spiritual truth. I am the center of my world and my mental and emotional atmosphere reaches out and touches many. The same is true for you. This is your season to choose to be the Light of the World.
Happy Thanksgiving To You
What three personal and/or spiritual qualities have I enhanced this year?
What are three achievements I am grateful for this year?
Who are five people I am grateful for today?
What recent events in my life make me grateful?
Which three of my personal qualities do I admire about myself the most today?
What are five things in Nature that I am grateful for today?
What are five entertainment activities am I most happy about?
What three news events cheered me most this year?
When I write my five thank you letters to whom shall I send them?