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Day 40: A Grateful Disposition

“Perceiving more feels like becoming more. You can think of it as calibrating yourself for the realization of your potential.” -Alison Alstrom

This morning I didn’t have to try to have a grateful disposition. I just woke up with it. I have been meditating and focusing on my felt sense and trying to experience the physical feeling of gratitude, contentment and peace whenever and wherever I can. I realized as I started to focus on my center, how I have had a habitual calibration in my body towards fear and anxiety. What I just found is that although the feelings of gratitude and contentment happen in the same region of the body, they happen at a different frequency. Some people have been suggesting to me that the frequency of our emotions has a lot to do with how our central nervous system is functioning.

It is easy and invisible to overuse your nervous system. Without making any excuses, I would have to say on many days, how it has seemed impossible to me to have this experience while living with many teenagers. Although, yesterday I experienced a bit of breakthrough in my relationship with my 18-year-old son, when I realized how funny he was. Not intentionally, but so utterly devoted to his teen reality. It was the first time in a long time that I found a positive relationship to his surly, know-it-all attitude. For me it was finding a kind of freedom, a way of getting off-the-hook and realizing that his choices are not about me, or even for me to do anything about.

Our friends at UC Davis found that gratitude increases life satisfaction, optimism and vitality. Developing a grateful disposition doesn’t diminish the unpleasant emotions or deny negative aspects of daily life as much as it enhances positive emotional states and leans towards them. With an increased capacity for empathy, they often have more generosity available to them and are more connected in their social networks. (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002).

Building a grateful disposition doesn’t require practicing religion, but belief in the interconnection of life. Having faith enhances the ability to be grateful. Not surprisingly, the more gratefully you approach life, the less you need materially. Having peace of mind, love and connection far outweighs the collection of things. It is easier to give things away.

It takes almost as much vigilance as the wristband method to build a grateful disposition. Recording the moments that awaken that place in your body is a good start.