Add Gratitude to Being Positive and Watch Your Relationships Blossom

Add Gratitude to Being Positive and Watch Your Relationships Blossom

PHIL: We’ve said it before, but the more I think about it, the more I understand the importance of a positive attitude. This is often used as a way to improve the future, as promised by “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Peale, or “Success Affirmations” by Jack Canfield.

But I think that where a positive attitude is most beneficial is in the present. Your world is what you look at. When you look at what brings you pleasure, you have pleasure in your life. When you look at what is missing or imperfect, you invite feelings of lack, dissatisfaction, neediness.

It’s hard to accept the idea that we can make changes in this way because we tend to think there is an objective world out there that we are assessing the best we can, but our view of this world is filtered through our understanding of it; we only see a fraction of it at a time. This is true for vision; only the center (the fovea) is sharp, yet we assume the entire picture is in focus. (This is easy to demonstrate: look away from your screen and try to continue reading.) We don’t have the objectivity to look at both the good and bad aspects of something, score it and come up with a grade like Consumer Reports.

Our situation is more like a sculpture that we can look at from different angles, and as we do, its shape changes. In Santa Barbara, the Chromatic Gate is like this.

When we look at the failures, flaws and imperfections, we are bound to be dissatisfied. Here’s a quote from a Reddit post:

Every time I have something good to share, my boyfriend always responds with some sort of issue that he has with it, or something negative and it feels really discouraging and makes me almost not want to share the good things in my life with him…. He does this with just about everyone actually, especially himself. He’s the hardest on himself. I’ve told him multiple times he’s being pessimistic and he does not see it that way. He 100% believes he’s just being realistic, every single time.

How exhausting and how unnecessary. Spare yourself this and look elsewhere.

The way to practice and strengthen this attitude is by being grateful. Say thank you for the good things in your life. Besides flowers, sunshine and birdsong, let me suggest that we should all be profoundly thankful for other people.

As a child, I found the solitude of Robinson Crusoe’s existence very appealing, but I have come to understand that our desire for independence is matched by our yearning for connection. We are, as I’ve written before, a social species. We need each other to survive, and yet our innate knowledge of this can be overlooked. I’m suggesting that people are valuable, not for their economic output, but for their very existence. Without them we would be alone in the world.People are valuable, not for their economic output, but for their very existence #quote Share on X

MAUDE: We recently watched a TEDx talk on gratitude and the presenter quoted a number of facts neuroscience has discovered about gratitude. Basically, if you have a regular practice of gratitude you will be much happier.

I have found that some thoughts of gratitude in the morning, along with journaling at night briefly, have had a profound effect on me. My sense of well-being is heightened and I feel more present to every moment.

Phil and I have recently discussed how important an awareness of gratitude is in all our relationships. One of the great treasures we have all gotten from the global experience of the pandemic is an awareness of and a gratefulness for our relationships. We all became aware just how precious contact with each other is. We learned the hard way to appreciate touch – hugging another, sitting in the same room, being next to each other.

We found ways to connect when we couldn’t be in each other’s presence and many of us learned the joys of Zooming together to break the barriers of separation and of distance. We found ways to celebrate together, stay in touch via social media, phone, Facetime. Our children went to school online and remained in visual if not direct contact.

As a result, many of the things we have taken for granted all our lives have risen to our awareness, and can serve to elevate our gratitude for our relationships with one another. If we don’t forget, if we don’t lapse back to ignoring these blessings, we have a wonderful opportunity to be present with the gift we all are to each other.

Now, as many no longer wear masks outdoors (or at all), we can have deep gratitude for the smile of a stranger, of how lovely it is to see smiling faces, nodding acknowledgment of our existence to each other. How precious it is to hug each other, to hold hands, to not have to cross the street every time someone approaches.

If we hold onto this awareness, we can make life so much better. We are all connected. We are all dependent on one another. Think of how many people it takes for the average person to get their food; those who grow it, pick it, transport it, package it, sell it, deliver it and all the many other people in-between.

We can use this new found awareness to better our most intimate relationships. Notice all that you are grateful for in those who you share your lives with directly. Notice it, acknowledge it, speak it, feel it. It is those little things that we miss the most when they are taken away. They are the very precious things of a life shared: the sound of someone’s voice, their big and small acts of service to you, what you learn from them just by being close to how and who they are, the sound of laughter, an ear to hear you, a heart to see you.

Phil and I are very grateful for each of you who read and share your thoughts with us on how we can live together in peace. We are grateful to each of you who feels called to join us in spreading peace one relationship at a time. It starts with you. We are grateful!

Photo credit: Phil Mayes
Photo note: Chromatic Gate in Santa Barbara

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6 Comments on “Add Gratitude to Being Positive and Watch Your Relationships Blossom

  1. Thanks Maude and Phil for another thoughtful and thought stimulating blog. It was good to be reminded of how COVID really raised our awareness and deepened our appreciation for social connection and contact. As I’m reengaging in a maskless world more and more, all these nuisances and gifts you so aptly highlighted continue to enhance my experience and quality of being in relationship with others. While it is a time of reemergence, it has also been a profound opportunity to amplify my gratitude not only for the individuals in my life, but their presence and power in my sense of aliveness, connection, and community. I give thanks for both of you and your practice and these consistent offerings. You truly are difference makers in my life.

    • Dear Catherine,
      Thank you so much for your feedback. It is good to know that what we have written resonates in your experience. I am full of hope that the experiences we have globally gone through during the pandemic will stay with us in our awareness of just how precious and important we all are to each other!

  2. In the Christian faith, gratitude to God for all that you have, sets the tone for a positive outlook. I have a page in my journal called Gratitude and do my best to add to it frequently. And it often takes input from others close to me (often Nancy) to allow me to see a predicament as a blessing. Sometimes hindsight works well, too.
    Hope you both are well.

  3. I’m thankful for the opportunity to spend time with my family. It’s been said that if you think you’re enlightened, go home. That’s where all the old patterns (the ones buried in the shadows of subconscious behavior) rise up unbidden. Mother brings everything to the Light of Father and I get to learn some valuable lessons. I’d rather focus on the good enough to learn from the friction of different points of view and the various roles we fall into. In the long run, I’m glad God is in charge and all I need to do is let my light be adjusted as necessary.

  4. Very nice reminders, triggering many thoughts.
    You discuss being thankful for others. Absolutely. I believe that ‘happiness is a choice’, but for me that choice has been made easy given the people who have come into my life – wife, daughters, granddaughters, sons-in-law, friends. A great ride.
    I also like to think about the effect of “expressing” gratitude being like a gift we give ourselves, as well as something we give to another. We feel good when we express it, as does the receiver.
    Thank you again for promting thoughts about gratitude – quite a powerful feeling and taking time to think of the reasons we have to be grateful is a great way to start the day – every day.
    And little things matter as well – sandwiching the passing of the salt between a please and thank you can be habit setting for expressing thanks for much more.

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