Many ancient Egyptians believed in The Five Gifts of Hathor. This is a ceremony where the high priest would have a new member of the community raise his left hand and speak a list of five things in life that person would miss if he died at that very moment.
Whatever the person listed, the priest would say, those five things were gifts from the goddess Hathor. That person then was to remain grateful for those five things for the rest of their life.
The importance of raising the left hand was to give the person a reminder. The five fingers on the left hand represented the five things the person stated he would miss. That way, whenever that person was laboring in the fields, reaching for the crops being harvested, he would see his left hand and be reminded to be grateful for his five things every day.
Similar to the ancient Egyptians, nearly all the world's major religions share the common theme of worship and gratitude for the many things God has done. Even today, many countries around the world hold festivals or special holidays focused on giving thanks and there is no sign of that stopping any time soon.
In other words, gratitude has always been and seemingly will always be very important.
The Power of Gratitude
Gratitude, at its core, is simply the state of being thankful for things you don't deserve. But honestly, gratitude is much more than that.
Dr. Robert Emmons has been studying gratitude for more than a decade. His research has shown that practicing an attitude of gratitude has several physical, psychological, and social benefits. He studied individuals of many cultures and ages and the evidence shows that people who practice gratitude consistently report the following:
- Stronger immune systems
- Less bothered by aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Better exercise habits and overall health maintenance
- Longer and more refreshed sleep
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- Feeling more alert, alive, and awake
- More joy and pleasure
- More optimism and happiness
- Feeling more helpful, generous, and compassionate
- More forgiving
- More outgoing
- Feeling less lonely and isolated
Gratitude and Anxiety
"Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity...it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates vision for tomorrow." - Melody Beattie
Gratitude also has the power to help your anxiety by changing your perspective.
When we are in deep thought about our anxiety and fears, it's difficult for us to notice anything else around us. We focus solely on problems, potential problems, and the negative stories we create in our minds to reinforce the problems we see.
However, if we begin practicing a mindset of gratitude and awareness of our own thought patterns and actions, we can sometimes stop a downward spiral in its tracks.
If, in the moment we become aware that we may be ruminating on negative thoughts and raising our anxiety, we can find something, anything to be thankful for, we can often shift the conversation in our mind and begin to climb out of our anxiety.
Last month, I shared a brief story about my anxiety over talking to my boss about new opportunities at my agency. If you missed it, here's the link.
Shortly after that conversation, my boss asked me to apply for a promotion because she felt I'd be a good fit. I happily applied and was selected to have an interview.
The interview was to be a panel style interview where three managers would give me scenarios and ask how I would handle each situation.
On the day of the interview, I was pretty anxious. I did my best to prepare, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was going to fail.
I arrived at the interview site early and ended up having to wait for about 20 minutes before being called inside. Sitting in the waiting room, I kept trying to calm down, but I couldn't focus. I just kept thinking that this wasn't going to go well and that I needed to get out of there.
So, I got up and went to the bathroom to splash a little water on my face. I was aware that I was having these anxious feelings and that I was sabotaging myself before giving myself a chance.
As the water dripped from my chin, I stared at myself in the mirror and thought, at least you get a chance to interview... and I was genuinely grateful for the opportunity.
That led me to think about how my boss really wanted me to apply for this position and believed I was a great fit for it. I was grateful for that too. I started thinking about how I started working for this company five years ago and how much I really wanted to make difference. I was grateful for that.
The more I thought about things I was grateful for, the more my anxiety began to subside. By the time I went into the interview, I was still a little nervous, but I was much more comfortable because I realized how blessed I was to have that opportunity.
Thankfully a week later, I got the promotion.
I don't think things would have gone so well had I not had that moment of clarity when I became grateful for the opportunity to interview. That gratitude pulled me out of what could have been a dangerous downward spiral.
Grateful for Anxiety...Seriously
A few weeks ago, I was reading one of my favorite blogs, The Worry Games.
Lisa, the author of the blog, had recently written a post that caused me to look at my own anxiety differently. Lisa often says that she loves her anxiety and is grateful for it.
At first, I found her statements hard to believe. I thought to myself, how could you love something that takes so much away from you?
But, as I read more about her story, I realized that the love and gratitude she has for anxiety has given her a great amount of strength to not only improve her life, but to help others... myself included.
If you're struggling with anxiety like most of us here and want to see how someone could be grateful for their anxiety and how it has helped them grow, please read this amazing post from Lisa: 10 Reasons I’m Glad I Have an Anxiety Disorder
What's Coming Next...
You're not going to want to miss it.
Next Action Steps
Just a simple action step today. Head over to The Worry Games blog and read my friend, Lisa's post: 10 Reasons I'm Glad I have an Anxiety Disorder. If you enjoy the post, leave a comment and let her know that Aaron sent you. 🙂