The Healing Effects of Gratitude

Over the years I have been gifted with lessons that direct me to an attitude of gratitude for all with which I am blessed. I often have to relearn the lesson. So there have been many opportunities thus far to be reminded of this. Serving with Acupuncturists Without Borders in aiding the survivors of the Joplin tornado was an indirect lesson in how fortunate we are. A direct lesson came in 2008 when our home was invaded by a burglar while we were away visiting my husband's family.
Upon entering our home, having only been gone a couple of hours, I noticed leaves and sea shells in the hallway. Odd, I thought. Where did the cats pull that from? I wasn't feeling well. A respiratory virus seemed to be taking hold. Our visit with my in-laws had been uncomfortable with all the nose blowing and sneezing. I'm sure they were glad when we went home! They had driven all the way from Texas with their fifth wheel for the visit in early May and were staying in Granite City, IL. They were gracious, of course, but yuck! So I was heading to bed to find sanctuary. Instead, I found my chest of drawers all askew. Mark had gone down to the basement to do something. As I said, "Mark, I think we've been robbed", he said, "Mary, there's a broken window down here". The police were called and inventory taken. Along with some cash, my mother's heirlooms and my wedding ring set had been taken. I felt devastated as my mother had perished of breast cancer when I was only thirteen. These things and memories, were all I had left of her. And now these things were gone.
What I realized over time was that in my desire to keep these things safe I had failed to fully appreciate them. They were tucked away in a drawer. I rarely got them out to wear them. I have few special occasions that require me to dress up. My work allows me to be casual in attire. Now that the things were gone, I mourned the not having used them.
Some time later, a few pieces were recovered. The desperate young lady who had been addicted to drugs causing her to resort to invading strangers homes had been caught and incarcerated. I felt sad for her. Of course I had been angry. But over time, I realized that this lesson granted me much wisdom. The few things that were rescued from where she had buried them now had greater meaning. In talking with the insurance company for "restitution", I realized that I didn't just want my rings replaced. They had gone through our wedding ceremony on me. How could that energy be recouped? My mother's pearls, now ruined, could never be replaced. But the gratitude for those memories and the desire to be better at appreciating memorable events in the moment was the gift of the lesson. To stay angry and afraid meant I was incarcerated with her. I prefer freedom.
To live in the moment is a central theme of the medicine training. To realized that each moment passing can have its own perfection. And that the task of bringing each moment to its unique possible perfection while recognizing that and appreciating it in that moment is the practice. I admit I am still learning to do this.
Why am I telling you all this? It seems to me that we all need to realize how to appreciate the moment in which we reside. The attitude of gratitude even in the most uncomfortable of moments creates a healthier experience.
I see world strife. It is reflected in my community. Society finds us judging our fellow humans on the color of our skin, the way we worship God, or the way we don't worship God, and many other categories of separation. As a physician, I see every day, how connected we all are. We all bleed red blood. Humans seek out the same comforts. We all require love.
So, the next time you are arguing with a spouse, a sibling, a teacher, a politician, a fellow human - stop and take a breath. Is what you are seeing as a bone of contention really worth the hurtful words and the hours, days, years of pain they cause? Do you want that to be your legacy? Or can you in that moment find that for which you are grateful? Can you make the moment about healing?
When you begin to practice the attitude of gratitude, life feels lighter. Is it a simple thing? Yes. Is it an easy thing? Not so much. It takes practice. But the practicing of it causes a shift in one's health for the better. People who are grateful have lower blood pressure and fewer health issues overall.
Join me in this practice. Feel the elixir that is the attitude of gratitude. Be thankful more often. Even for those moments we call uncomfortable. For often those are the moments that teach us the most and lift us higher having experienced them.
Mary S. Wallis, L.Ac., NCCAOM Acupuncture Diplomate, L.M.T., C.N.M.T.
Energy Medicine Practitioner in the Japanese styles of Kototama/Inochi Medicine and Usui Reiki
895 rue St. Francois Florissant, MO 63031