Gratitude is a Muscle
These reflections remind me, again and again, that the world is a wonderful place if you make the effort to focus your attention in the right direction. Like anything, the more I practice, the better I get at seeing. The more I see, the more thankful I am.
Knowing that each season brings an opportunity to write for the Tour usually means I’m squirreling away ideas for pieces on a regular basis. And, because there is more than enough bad news out there already, I actively seek out the positive. The want for material also means I am forced to look up or look around and really take stock of what the world is offering up.
Writing, or rather thinking about what to write and how to make what I see and feel come alive for whomever is reading, is my own form of mindful meditation. Translating feelings into words and evoking colours and sensations for others is impossible without harvesting details, fully delving into minutiae and comparing and contrasting it all to my growing inventory of life experiences. Turning the intangible into concepts people can relate to and wrap their heads around is an immense source of satisfaction to me.
My endless astonishment at the intricacies of nature’s creations is an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Knowing the trees are speaking to each other under my feet, being sung to by the catbird while I’m weeding the garden, hearing the beaver explode the surface of the pond with its tail to warn me off fills me with awe.
And if nature doesn’t do the trick I can just dig into the idiosyncracies of my fellow humans. Piggybacking on someone else’s passion, hearing someone wax on about their pet subject – be it the mechanics of 19th century woodmills, the promise of regenerative agriculture, the crazy brood patch on the belly of a female cardinal – is, for me, the fast track to fascination.
Ultimately it’s about being present. Trying my damnedest to listen with my full attention, observing while (sometimes successfully) resisting the impulse to judge. Riding the waves of wonder and just wallowing in it. And these reflections remind me, again and again, that the world is a wonderful place if you make the effort to focus your attention in the right direction. And, like anything, the more I practice, the better I get at seeing. The more I see, the more I feel and the more I feel, the more thankful I am.
Myriad studies have been done exploring the effects of gratitude on one’s mental health and the neuroscience is fairly definitive. Feelings of thankfulness have been proven to both boost levels of dopamine (the happy hormone) and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone). Having thoughts of gratitude as one falls asleep has been shown to improve both the quality and duration of one’s sleep by up to 25 %.
Our one-track minds are simply unable to respond to negative emotions while in the act of being grateful. It seems finding and naming things to be grateful for are the ultimate antidote for feelings of hopelessness. Like any seed, if we want it to flourish, we need to feed it and weed it. Gratitude is a practice. One that has been proven to lessen anxiety’s hold on our psyche, diminish subjective feelings of pain, foster self-love and empathy and cultivate our sense of being connected to others.
Writing for Le Tour for all these years has meant I have a great reason to explore a subject that jazzes me at least once a season. For that, and a planet’s worth of other reasons, I am truly thankful.
Happy birthday, Le Tour and thank you, Geneviève, for the opportunity to put pen to paper and share my gratitude with your readers.