On The Simpsons, Bart Simpson is asked to offer thanks during a family meal, he says, “Dear God, we bought this stuff with our own money, so thanks for nothing!” The character’s prayer summarizes the attitudes of many people.
How often are we thankful for what we have? Inundated with the negativity from advertisers telling us we aren’t good enough unless we use their products and media cynicism that’s growing daily, it’s hard to be thankful for all we have.
We live in a time of extraordinary abundance, but that won’t change the naysayers who, I suspect, are simply unhappy with themselves. Thankfulness doesn’t come naturally, and sometimes not at all.
Thankfulness must be promoted and reinforced daily, but how? How do we teach ourselves to be thankful? It’s easy for some, but hard for others.
A veteran officer told me that numerous domestic disturbance calls make him a better husband and father. Angry and bitter he wasn’t. Responding to those calls made him come home very thankful for his marriage.
Responding to abuse calls involving children helped him view his children with MORE patience and love. This officer had cultivated the ability to deal with negatives and turn them into positive actions. He plays an enormous role in his family’s health and happiness.
HOW DOES IT APPLY TO ME?
We ought to be thankful our job is recession-proof; the job will always be there. We must take stock of what we have: A job! Certainly, you have known people without a job, struggling to find work.
Are you thankful to be working? Are you thankful to serve many different people daily? Do you realize that you can make a difference every tour? Whether it is good or bad is up to you.
Some officers are thankful for little things: walking out of roll call to a full tank, having a clean squad car and a computer that is clean and that works. Others are thankful for that cup of coffee or the person who made it.
Every officer should be thankful for his or her skill set. For some it’s patience, others it’s a keen memory. What was I writing about? List your skills and be thankful for them daily.
Having terrible vision myself, I envy those officers who can see a license plate a half-block away in traffic and yet, I’m thankful for having the means to buy glasses to compensate for my deficiency.
THANKFULNESS AFFECTS MY HEALTH?
Being thankful has potent effects on health. While more research is needed to reinforce the supportive link between gratitude and health, here are some convincing reasons why you will want to be extra thankful.
Being thankful improves physical health: An analysis of nearly 1,000 Swiss adults published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that higher levels of dispositional gratitude were correlated with better self-reported physical health.
The people who felt more gracious had a notable willingness to partake in healthy behaviors and seek help for their health-related concerns.
Thankfulness makes you more optimistic. Numerous studies have supported this assertion.
Researcher, Robert Emmons split up a group of people into three segments. He asked the first segment to write about what they were grateful for during the week. The second segment were was to write about hassles, and the third segment was asked to write about neutral things that happened to them.
After a few weeks, the researchers found that the people who wrote about things they were grateful for were more optimistic. They reported feeling better about themselves. They even exercised more than the group that wrote about things that irritated them. “Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.”
It is believed that thankful people have a healthier heart. In a study by Paul J. Mills, a professor of family medicine, tested 186 men and women with heart damage, researchers rated the people’s levels of gratitude and spiritual wellbeing.
They found that higher gratitude scores were linked to having a better mood, higher quality sleep and less inflammation – which can worsen the symptoms of heart failure. They also found that having high levels of gratitude explained a lot of the benefits of spiritual wellbeing.
In addition, some of the men and women were also asked to write down things they were grateful for over an eight-week period. “We found that those patients who kept gratitude journals for those eight weeks showed reductions in circulating levels of several important inflammatory biomarkers, as well as an increase in heart rate variability while they wrote.
Improved heart rate variability is considered a measure of reduced cardiac risk,” said study author Paul J. Mills, in a statement about his research.
You might get more sleep by living a thankful lifestyle. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, writing down a few things you are thankful for before bed can help. A study of college students in 2011 who struggled to fall asleep due to racing minds and worries found that those who underwent a gratitude intervention were able to “quiet their minds and sleep better.”
You might ask, “What’s a gratitude intervention?” Simply, it is this: they were asked to spend 15 minutes in the early evening writing about a positive event that occurred recently or one they anticipated in the future.
WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THIS INFO?
When negative thoughts or emotions come up, instead of analyzing them, refocus your mind on gratitude (i.e. being grateful for something in your life) and the negative will melt away.
For me, gratitude clears my mind, brings me to a state of calmness, and elevates my emotions.
Cicero, the famous Roman philosopher and statesman wrote, “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the virtues.” In Greek and Roman times, character was based on virtue, which was a sign of greatness.
In today’s culture, we have put less importance on developing virtue and character, putting more importance on acquiring possessions, status, or sensual pleasure.
Any one of us can fall into traps for a variety of reasons and influences. We must, from time to time, step back and be thankful for what we have. Being thankful will make you feel better and possibly sleep better, without the medications.
Whenever you are feeling low, just remember your work – be grateful for your work and do it well. Work is one of the most satisfying things that a person can do if he or she finds it interesting.
In this demanding and threatening world, officers need to remind themselves they have much to be thankful for. Try it out, there’s nothing like the power of gratitude.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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