Believe it or not, I’ve always been a reflective sort. But now, that I’m 60, I’ve become even more so. I guess I’m feeling the urge to
wizen up — make that wisen up — before I say, “Adios, Amigos!”
(Note: “Wizen” is pretty much a given, unless I want to inject my whole body with botox. On the other hand, “wisen” is something I’m striving for.)
As for what I’ve been reflecting on and researching recently: “seasoned gratitude.” I’ve been fixated on the “seasoned” part of it because of my age, and I’ve imagined it to be full-bodied, complex, soft, warm, and rich like red wine, cheese, family and friends, leather boots, trees, old jeans, self confidence, songs from our youth, art (not only by esteemed artists but also — and, maybe more so — by beloved children).
Seriously, I had quite the “Ode to Old Age” going on there. I was even waxing-poetic about gratitude for the “not-so-good memories” (which falls into the “wisened” category). I was Googling for “why we become more grateful as we age” or different variations of that, but I couldn’t find much to support my imagery. One article — 50 Things That Get Better With Age — helped me with my “seasoned list,” but for the most part I was repeatedly faced with sites referencing the science of gratitude/positive thinking and “The Gratitude Trend.”
That’s right … Gratitude’s become quite the pop-cultural phenomenon! Gratitude journals, “challenges” to post your “thankfuls” on Facebook and other social media, and increasingly greater numbers of people talking enthusiastically about what they’re grateful for.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
In fact — before I go any further and run the risk of offending someone — I believe there’s everything right with that! (Except, if you begin to stress out about your gratitude list not being as good as others … Stop it! Or, if you’re in a really “bad place” in your life and you start beating yourself up for not being as happy as everyone else, take a deep breath and realize it’s okay to not be happy all the time. Then, BE GRATEFUL for that insight. 😉 )
The thing is … My immediate reaction was defensive. I thought, “MY gratitude is NOT trendy!” Trends, by nature, come and go. And, for good reason — many fashion and decor trends have been embarrassing; some beauty trends are unhealthy, and there’ve been deadly ones as well.
The more I read, however, the more I realized how this very public display of an emotion that I was guarding and protecting as if it were some golden treasure could be highly infectious (in a good way) and — ultimately — create a more peaceful world so much faster than “my quote guy” Cicero (106 – 43 BC) or Aesop (620 – 560 BC) could’ve ever envisioned. Clearly, MY ideal gratitude is not “new.” It’s been around for eons. What’s new and exciting about it is the pace at which it’s being “recognized” and practiced in the present — versus being reflected upon in the future — and is being taken to heart here and now by all ages, young and old.
Gratitude has long been recognized for its spiritual qualities, such as joy and peace. And, these emotions, if they can become part of a person’s character, can create greater satisfaction with life and healthier relationships. Can children be raised to be more grateful? (Not just polite the way most of us were raised.) And, could the greater society truly benefit from it?
Authors of the book, “Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character,” state: If there was a new wonder drug on the market that got kids to behave better, improve their grades, feel happier, and avoid risky behaviors, many parents around the world would be willing to empty their bank accounts to acquire it. Amazingly, such a product actually does exist. It’s not regulated by the FDA, it has no ill side-effects, and it’s absolutely free and available to anyone at any time. This miracle cure is gratitude.
Authors Jeffrey Froh and Giacomo Bono, leading authorities on the subject, “offer practical and effective common-sense plans that can be used in day-to-day interactions between kids and adults to enhance success and wellbeing” and ultimately “create a more cooperative and thriving society.” What’s not to like about that?
But, why limit this science to “just a few kids”? What about taking it around the world … like to 6 billion people? In 2011, the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley — in collaboration with the University of California, Davis — launched a $5.6 million, three-year project, “Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude.”
See what I mean? Gratitude is going viral,
and I say, “Thank God!”