The stillness of morning envelopes me like a warm blanket on a cool winter’s day. Outside, the sky is dark in the early misty gloom of dawn not yet risen. Inside, the glow of my desk lamp casts a halo over my fingers typing on my keyboard. Piano music plays softly. Beaumont the Sheepadoodle lies under my desk, his head resting on my feet. The gentleness of his snores warms my heart.
I am grateful for this morning.
Gratitude, the experts say, is good for your body. Your whole body of which the mind is part of the whole.
We, westerners, tend to separate body and mind as if the two are connected yet separate entities with one having the upper hand over the other whose purpose is to be the vehicle that carries it around.
They are interconnected. One brain. One body. One person. One. Whole. Being.
This is why gratitude is so important. Our thoughts are our body’s thoughts, not just our minds. Our thoughts become our reality. Our thoughts impact the entirety of our being — including our health. And, when we practice gratitude, we ignite endorphins that happily dance through our veins and arteries, filling our nervous system with feelings of joy. (At least that’s how I like to imagine them.)
There’s good news about aging and positive thinking!
According to this article in the Globe and Mail from October, 2015, “Neuroscientists have suggested older people have a sunnier outlook because the limbic system, particularly the amygdala, an area of the brain involved in emotional attention and memory, becomes less active in response to negative information. At the same time, older individuals maintain or even increase their reactivity to positive information.”
Yesterday morning, walking back from the park with Beaumont, I watched two city workers clean up the garbage left behind by the weekend visitors to the park. There was a lot of it.
As they worked they chatted. As they worked, they created inviting islands of green space free of garbage.
I watched and was grateful they were out so early in the morning making the park whole again.
I decided to share my gratitude.
I walked towards them. As they noticed my approach they both stopped working and watched me.
“I just wanted to thank you for making the park so inviting and clean!” I called out.
Suddenly, both their faces broke out in smiles. “You’re welcome,” one of them called out.
“Thanks for all you do to keep our city beautiful,” I said before moving on with Beaumont.
As I left, I heard one of them say to the other. “D’ya hear that? Someone appreciates what we do.”
I was smiling as I walked away. It felt good to give a gratitude bouquet to strangers. Especially as I truly am grateful for the work they do.
Their work is important. It matters.
I am grateful for my mind’s ability to remind me to not just think thoughts of gratitude, but to share them freely wherever I can.
Spreading gratitude is important. It matters.
I am grateful that with aging, I am becoming… more at ease with my power to spread gratitude.
I am grateful that with aging, I am becoming… more accepting of life’s gifts. More thankful for life’s beautiful moments. More capable of letting the not-so-nice moments fade as I pour love and joy into each moment I experience the gift of my life on this earth.
And I am grateful that there are people like University of Oregon neuroscientist and research associate Christina Karns, studying the impact of gratitude on aging. In the same G&M article (above), Karns is quoted as saying, “It’s [Gratitude] different than those sort of basic emotions, like happy, sad, fear, anger. So there isn’t going to be just one system in the brain that is implicated in gratitude.”
While happiness occurs in the brain’s immediate reward systems, gratitude is believed to also involve the cortical structures associated with higher order cognition and social reasoning, she says.
Gratitude is a whole-brain undertaking. And, as the brain is as integral to our well-being as the heart and belly, veins and arteries, limbs and skeleton, being grateful pays dividends throughout our body creating well-being and lightened spirits where ever it flows.
As we age, numerous studies have shown, we become happier. Apparently, we are, on average, at our most positive in our senior years.
I am making a conscious decision to flow in gratitude. Choosing to express it whenever I can, where ever I am.
I am grateful for all of you. Grateful for your presence. Your words of encouragement. Your sharing of your insights and thoughts. Your light. Our shared connection.