I was listening to part of an interview on the radio last night about Gratitude. It was obviously planned for the Thanksgiving season, but I found this one interview compelling and honestly better than many other messages and even sermons I’ve heard.
I don’t know who the man was, but he was a psychiatrist and he talked about gratitude as an essential part of healthy Life and our human makeup. And that it was the key to happiness.
He didn’t talk about how we should be grateful. He didn’t talk about gratitude being essential to save your soul, or anything like that. He didn’t even say anything about how it’s a spiritual principle in the cycle of give and receive. Though it is. Or that it was a bad thing to not be grateful. He did mention that it was a key to happiness, but I thought it interesting how he explained it.
He said that gratitude isn’t just about the fleeting feelings of “YAY!” we feel when something we love happens. He said it’s also a state of being, giving and service. And he said that it’s the key to happiness, because that service adds value to our lives. Not just in hey – the experience of serving was good for me. But as in the fact that our psyches’ desire to matter. And when we serve, our psyches’ realize – we matter. We just mattered to someone we helped. Even if we don’t think it’s a whole lot, our psyche recognizes this and sees value in its existence.
And that it’s important to respond to those things that we naturally feel inspired by, or appreciate the value of.
He mentioned that one of his primary methods to treat depression and suicidal thoughts was to give his clients the homework of doing good deeds for others. It didn’t have to be big. It could be making a point of thanking someone, or making someone smile at the grocery store, or buying a cup of coffee for the fellow behind you. The point wasn’t about worrying how or anything like that. The point was to just simply start doing it. And then increase to more and more times per week. And soon, that person who once saw no value in their life and no reason to live, no longer felt the same. And often no longer needed medication.
I thought it was really interesting. Because it wasn’t about guilting people into service. It wasn’t about shoulds and sins and the oft spoken clichés of how good it is to see the misfortunes of others so you would appreciate what you have more. It was simply a matter that our psyches CRAVE to be of value. It’s part of our very makeup. Whether you believe that makeup is ordained by God or not doesn’t matter. And in order to correct the malfunction of devaluing ourselves and our lives, the answer is to show our inner selves that we do have value. And if what you’re doing isn’t convincing your inner self of your value, then you shift to doing what will. The key was to do something that you could see made an impact.
I thought this was really interesting, because I think this bleeds into so much more. Not everyone is suicidal, but many of us live lives we don’t feel are of much value or aren’t satisfied with. We throw money at things without getting involved, which often removes us emotionally and physically from the experience. We get too busy and cut more and more out of our lives. And while we need a balance in everything, it seems that we only value that which we invest our souls into. Including our communities, our country and ourselves. I can tell you from personal experience that every time I go through dark periods, I throw myself into service somehow. I hadn’t really analyzed it too much, but it’s always given me light when I needed it most.
I don’t know. It’s not like this subject isn’t talked about in so many ways. And it isn’t like the thankfulness clichés aren’t trotted out every single November. I’ve heard and studied and parroted these things again and again myself. But somehow this struck me a little differently this time. Maybe because there was simply a tremendous lack of judgement in the whole way this guy presented his thoughts. It wasn’t about right or wrong. It wasn’t about whether we’ve lost our way as a modern civilization. It wasn’t about depression being a disease to manage or Thanksgiving being an important time to be thankful. It wasn’t about sadness or saving the world.
It was simply a loving statement of fact. We humans need to be of value. We need it like we need sleep and nourishment. It’s a need that we are responsible for feeding ourselves. No one else can give it to us. It drives what we do and who we are. And without it, we’ll never be healthy, happy or prosperous.
As a man thinks, so is he.
We’ve been told these things all our lives.
Do we understand what they really mean?