Spirituality takes on many different forms for people. Some turn to organized religion, some connect with nature, others use aspects of many, and some find individual practices to connect to something greater, or the universe. All are expressions of us realizing we are not on our own and belong to something more, something greater. When you have an illness in can be easy to disconnect for a number of reasons. I did for a good period of time due to my psychosis involving religious delusions and hallucinations. I wanted a far distance between the illness and reality for the fear I could hit a point where I could not tell the difference between them. I found my way back slowly. One way I started was developing a practice of gratitude.
Gratitude plays a significant role in relationships, health and spiritual connection. There is a large body of scientific literature on gratitude; two main contributors are Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough.
Gratitude is defined with in the body of scientific research as:
- “Recognizing that one has obtained a positive outcome, an affirmation of goodness, there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we have received.”
- Recognizing that there is an external source of goodness outside ourselves
- Gratitude can be one way to practice the element of joy, Spirituality.
- Gratitude is both an emotion and an act.
- Gratitude can be felt in real time when we recognize a blessing, a kind act, a memory, seeing a small child playing, hearing a loved one’s voice, tasting your favorite food.
“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” – Karl Barth
All of these things, and many more, can result in you feeling a fleeting emotion of gratitude. Whenever you receive kindness or give it away you may feel gratitude, and its presence can spark the experience of joy. Gratitude has more to offer than just an experienced emotion.
- Gratitude can shift moods which is an important skill to have.
- It can prevent a bad day from taking away your opportunity of joy.
- It gives you a tool to connect with others when that seems too overwhelming.
Gratitude, in its authentic form is relational, serving important role in building and maintaining healthy relationships, with your connection to God, nature or the universe. When I was ill I lost my interest in connection. I avoided opportunities and isolated. Gratitude for things in my in my life was a simple way to make an effort in connecting with others. I started with God and eventually worked my way out to feeling gratitude of those in my life. That lead to me stepping out and starting to try to connect. Individual work and interaction with others provides a full spectrum of experiences.
- Having gratitude for blessings in your day.
- Insight and connection with something larger like God, connection with nature, or with the universe.
- Gratitude for people (and pets) is relational, and that is something that needs to be rebuilt after episodes with the illness.
Awareness that Goodness is present
There are reasons we fail to notice the good around us, one is that we are not looking. Our society funnels news of tragedy, social medias, busy work schedules, illness, hype on diet/death, etc. No matter where you look there is a message of “fear this, reject that, avoid at all costs, be distracted by this, no time for that, pursue to achieve unrealistic goals, etc.” One has to take a few mindful-moments and really think about something positive, something to be grateful for. There is a need for something structured to help you reflect, to feel positive emotions, and foster important relationship(s) with yourself, the Creator and others.
Here is an easy way to start your practice, think about the following:
- What did I hear today that brought me joy?
- What did I see today that I enjoyed?
- What surprised me today, something I may have overlooked?
- What did I smell today that I enjoyed?
- What do I take for granite?
- What there a problem, something I was stressing about that turned out ok for me today?
- Did someone give me a kind gesture?