• Published
  • By Chaplain (Capt) Tara L. Bauer
  • 934th Airlift Wing Chaplain
In Australia, the ranches are typically so large that ranchers don't usually bother with erecting fences.  What they do instead is to dig a deep well that offers a plentiful year-round supply of water.  Because the outback is so vast and dry, the ranchers' cattle will never stray too far from the well.  In such a harsh environment, water is crucial to the cattle's survival.
We all face periods of challenge and drought in our lives.  We also need a deep well to sustain and revive ourselves. If you want to instantly improve your life, develop practices of gratitude.  Practicing gratitude is like digging a "deep well" for our lives, from which we should never stray too far.  Gratitude doesn't depend on circumstances. Thankfulness is focused on what we have versus on what we lack, and studies show that deliberately cultivating gratefulness increases our well-being, happiness, and resiliency.

Gratitude is also associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy.  This isn't about simply adopting a "Pollyanna attitude."  Journalist Lauren Aaronson writes that feeling thankful and expressing thanks makes you happier and heartier.
Gratitude changes our outlook.  It helps us to move beyond merely surviving to flourishing and thriving.  

Practicing gratitude requires some openness.  University of Michigan psychology professor, Christ Peterson, says that gratitude exercises "can be done with skepticism, but not with cynicism."  So you may find yourself faking it at first, but there is nothing "too small" in which we can be thankful and the overlooked blessings often tend to be the most consistent and important ones such as friends, family, food, health and home.  Gratitude practices nurture our connection with others in a noticeable way.  After all, we are less likely to take for granted the many good things of our lives; plus, we will feel much more loved or cared for ourselves. 

Possible Practices
Devote a time of day to gratitude.  Perhaps, when you wake up or go to bed, recall what you are thankful for in your day or your life.   Say a prayer or blessing before meals.  When those moments of frustration and challenges arise in your day, nurture your gratitude by thinking of something you are thankful within that situation.  Dip deep into your well.  The practice of gratitude can even be a gesture such as writing a sincere "thank-you" note (even if it is belated), keeping a journal or gratitude jar in which you name your blessings.  Need additional help, google "gratitude practices."
So dig yourself a deep well of gratitude, drink from it regularly, and your life will flourish.

For an uplifting video on Gratitude, see Louis Schwartzberg's six-minute film on YouTube: