Seventh heaven: show an attitude – of gratitude
Clown Step November 2007by Marie Frisch a.k.a. Sundoc Clown
Some months ago, I watched an episode of a reality TV series called Trading Spouses. In one of the families, two young women in their early twenties and their seventeen-year-old brother were living at home with their parents. Their guest mother soon realised that none of them helped at home. The eldest daughter was deeply in debt, and none of the children had any ambitions to leave home and lead independent lives.
The guest mother went on strike and insisted the kids help with the chores; they did so unwillingly. She decided that the money they earned from the TV show should be used to pay off the eldest girl’s credit card debt and to rent an apartment for the two young women. Some money was allotted for training and education so the children could improve their chances of getting good jobs to support themselves. When they heard this, the young people were angry and resentful. After receiving a gift worth several thousand pounds, all they could do was complain.
It doesn’t matter what your children have, if they don’t feel gratitude, they’ll always be miserable. Conversely, practising an attitude of gratitude is one of the best short cuts to happiness that I know.
One of the exercises I learned from Patch Adams was to let people in a workshop spend five minutes describing all the things they’re grateful for in their lives. Most people can barely fill thirty seconds. How incredible that after living for millions of minutes we cannot find enough life material to fill five minutes with pure gratitude.
Why don’t you try it? Spend the next five minutes recalling all the things you have to be grateful for. Write them down, if you wish, or better yet, say them aloud. If you have difficulty, don’t feel bad. Gratitude is an attitude that can be learned. Habitually, most people tend to focus on problems and negative aspects of life and take the good things for granted. Complaints come more easily than thanks. Some people even consider it indecent or weak to give thanks, or look down on those who show gratitude.
Newspapers, television and other media generally report negative or bad news. Good news is no news. Yet gratitude and its sincere expression generate joy and positive feelings. True gratitude can be learned and practised, but even false gratitude can be a start. If you begin to think of all the things you might be grateful for, even if you don’t truly feel the gratitude, the focus on gratitude-inducing subjects can inspire a feeling of true gratitude. List these things and call them frequently to mind, such as when waiting in interminable lines, or sweltering in evening traffic, and gratitude can soon become a habit.
ExerciseWhy not make such a list and pin it next to your computer screen, or stick it in your wallet or somewhere handy? Refer to it often, learn it by heart, and then add more. Soon you will be able to fill 20 minutes with gratitude or even a whole day.
Once you have an attitude of gratitude, you can teach it to your children. Most people learn at an early age to say ‘thank you’. This is simple etiquette. Families can practise gratitude together. For example, before meals you might give thanks for all who made the meal possible, the farmer who raised and milked the cows, planted the potatoes, the people who processed and transported the goods, those who sold the food etc. You can also express gratitude for and to each other, spend time thanking each other for simply being there, and expressing things you like and appreciate about each other. Your children will feel appreciated and learn to appreciate life, and you’ll be happier people for it.