One of the popular TV advertisements these days stirs up both irritation and intrigue inside me every time it plays. It's the Geico Insurance commercial with the little piggy squealing with delight "Wee, Wee, Wee" all the way home as it rides in the car with its head out the window. It's obviously having the time of its life and loving every minute of the ride home, much to the irritation of the woman and her son. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8F_G2zp-opg]
The sound of the high-pitched squealing irritates me. The concept and message, at the same time, intrigue me. Though it's advertising an insurance company (most of whose commercials are very lame to me), the attitude being graphically displayed is quite powerful the more I watch it. The pig is experiencing absolute delight in something most of us would consider terribly mundane - riding in the car on the way home.
That pig's attitude and experience stand out to me this Thanksgiving Season. It's amazing how an attitude of delight in the simple things impacts one's experience. Some people call it an Attitude of Gratitude. And the more the experts study this simple attitude, the more profound they discover the results of stepping into it truly are.
My wife Shasta forwarded me one of her blogger friend's posts today because it was on this issue of gratitude. In the post, author Rachel Bertsche quotes from this morning's Wall Street Journal that references the latest scientific research: “Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy, or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.” (“Thank You. No, Thank You,” Wall Street Journal, 11/23/2010)
Imagine that! Who among us wouldn't want more energy, optimism, social connections, and happiness? Who among us wouldn't want less depression, envy, greed, or addiction? Who among us wouldn't want more money, restful sleep, exercise, and greater disease resistance? Hard to pass on those effects! And think of it - all from simply stepping into gratitude.
I've read study after study, and research experiment after research experiment, on the impact of gratitude, and they all offer the same conclusions: people who find specific, tangible ways to delight in their lives, to express gratitude for what they already have, are at least 25% happier and experience a much higher degree of personal and relational well-being than those who don't practice gratitude.
Knowing all of this has prompted my wife Shasta and me to adopt the very simple practice every morning at the end of our spiritual devotion time. We both have iPhone apps called Gratitude! So we open it up, spend the next few minutes writing at least 5-6 things we're grateful for, and then share our lists with each other. I've been in awe of the inspiration as well as sense of well-being this activity has given to both of us. [Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology and leading researcher on the dynamics of happiness, has discovered that the most effective tool for raising personal happiness and well being is the gratitude journal. And one of the powers of it is that it is so simple and easy to do. You can do it any time, any where.]
This morning Shasta and I were sharing our lists and I mentioned one of my items: "I'm grateful for the fun ride on the shopping cart with Shas down the long ramp at Costco." The moment I read it, we both broke out laughing hilariously with the memory of that experience yesterday (it's actually our very regular practice whenever we finish our shopping at Costco - the ramp down to the parking lot rocks, much to the dismay at times of some of the boring customers slowly walking their carts!). Our endorphins and dopamine were literally bubbling through our systems as we laughed in memory. :)
There is power in gratitude and in the ability to find delight in the simple things. Don't you think? So what gratitude list will you come up with this Thanksgiving? Why not even make it a regular spiritual practice? After all, a few extra endorphins and dopamine hormones squealing "Wee, Wee, Wee," all the way home through your system can't hurt! If little piggy can do it for Geico, maybe you and I can do it for ourselves, too!
Happy Thanksgiving! I'm very grateful for each of you who continue letting me into your computers and hopefully hearts. :)