Dr. Alan Zimmerman | Motivational speaker

How to use GRATEFULNESS as a weapon in this crisis

These are tough times and we’re all forced to make some very important choices that will have some very significant implications for our lives and our futures.

The first choice you and I have to make is between faith and fear. Which one is going to rule your life?

The second choice you have to make is between “every man for himself” or “doing something to help the situation”. Whichever choice you make will show up in your behavior.

And the third choice you have to make is between being grateful or ungrateful. That’s the message of the Tuesday Tip I feel called to address today.

Of course, you may think it’s preposterous if not impossible to be grateful when the world seems to be crashing all around us. People are sick and dying, our healthcare system is overwhelmed, commerce has stopped, and families can’t even get together.

But I would counter by saying gratefulness is the healthiest choice you can make right now. Let me show you why that is the case and then show you how you can practice more gratefulness in the midst of our COVID-19 pandemic.

► 1. Why is gratefulness the healthiest choice?

The best resource for that question is Dr. Robert Emmons at the University of California, Davis. He has taken the lead on “gratefulness” research for many years, discovering the role that gratitude plays in our physical and emotional well-being.

Bottom line? Gratefulness will make and keep you healthier in every dimension of life.

In one study, he took three groups of volunteers and randomly assigned them to focus on one of three things each week: hassles, things for which they were grateful, and ordinary life events.

The first group concentrated on everything that went wrong or was irritating to them, such as the “jerk who cut me off on the highway.” The second group honed in on situations they felt enhanced their lives, as in “My boyfriend is so kind and caring. I’m lucky to have him.” And the third group recalled recent everyday events, such as “I went grocery shopping.”

The results? The people who focused on gratitude were much better off, physically, emotional, mentally, and spiritually than the other two groups … by far. In particular, the grateful people were:

  • Happier,
  • More optimistic,
  • More enthusiastic,
  • More determined,
  • More interested,
  • More joyful,
  • More energetic (instinctively spending an extra 90 minutes per week exercising than those who focused on hassles), and
  • Saw their lives, their relationships, and their jobs in favorable terms.

That was just the start. The grateful people were also:

  • Less depressed,
  • Less anxious,
  • Less envious,
  • Less burned out,
  • Reporting fewer illnesses,
  • Fewer headaches, and
  • Fewer colds.

In study after study, Dr. Emmons, concluded that gratefulness reduces cardiac disease, inflammations, and neurodegeneration significantly. Gratitude reduces insomnia, substance abuse, and eating disorders

From my point of view, we all need all the benefits that are granted to us by practicing gratefulness. Or put another way, you cannot afford to go to the “dark” side, to an overly focused attention on the negative, especially during times of crisis.

That’s why I’m going to delve into that topic in depth this Thursday, April 9, 2020 during my live webinar on Tough Times Never Last but Tough Times Do from 3 to 4 p.m. ET. Please join me.

Starting right now, I implore you to …

► 2. Practice conscious, daily, determined gratefulness.

I know. It may not be easy. It may seem more natural to fret and worry than be grateful during this pandemic.

However, it’s time to get real and practical. I’m not saying you should put your head in the sand and pretend everything’s okay when it’s not. But I am saying one of your best defenses in the midst of tough times is your attitude of gratitude. It’s physiologically impossible to be stressed and thankful at the same time.

Perhaps you remember the old hymn, “Count your blessings, one by one.” Turns out that advice was not only theologically correct but scientifically correct as well. Research shows that when you count three blessings a day, you get a measurable boost in your energy, your spirit, and your overall happiness.

The good news is … you get to choose your focus. Will you be grateful or ungrateful? Whichever one you choose, there is plenty of evidence to “prove” you’re right.

In fact, take a moment right now to try a little experiment. Without even moving from where you are, you can find ample evidence to prove your life is a miserable, depressing, terrible burden, or you can find evidence to prove your life is abundant and blessed.

Let’s start with the negative. Look at all the imperfections around you. No matter how good anything is, it could be better, couldn’t it?

Look for the dirt, disorder, and dust. See all the things that need cleaning, repairing and replacing? An endless array of clutter, chaos, and catastrophe is assaulting your senses.

Now, look at the same scene you just surveyed and find the good. You can start with whatever you’re sitting or lying on. It’s probably softer than a concrete floor.

Look at all the other objects you use but take for granted — glasses (both seeing and drinking), tables, windows, and the walls and ceiling sheltering you from the elements.

Consider the wonder of the electric light. A hundred years ago, you would have to have been very rich or very lucky to have had even one. And you probably have more than one light bulb — and a TV and a computer and dozens of other electronic marvels.

What around you do you find aesthetically pleasing? A painting you haven’t really looked at in years? The detail work on the clothes you’re wearing? A flower? A vase? Wallpaper? Carpet? When was the last time you took a moment to appreciate colors?

The point is obvious. You can find plenty of evidence for whatever case you want to make.

As Roger and McWilliams write, “It’s as though there were two attorneys in your mind, one gathering evidence for ‘Life is Awful’ and the other gathering evidence for ‘Life is Wonderful.’ You’re the judge and can rule out any evidence you choose. Your decision is final. Which judicial ruling do you suppose would lead to more joy, happiness, peace and ease?”

The judicial ruling of gratefulness, of course!

So please, practice conscious, daily, determined gratefulness.

There are lots of ways you can do that. I’ll give you one method to get started. Spend five minutes a day writing a few things in each of these boxes. It works wonders.

And please remember I’m here for you. If you want to email or call me, feel free to do so. We’re in this together.