Simple solutions to problems. Real life, coming home, back to normal life.

Stream photo by Errol Thomas

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“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
― Confucius

I haven’t written anything while I was away, not even my journal. When I get away from writing I have to prime the pump and get back into the swing of putting my thoughts down.

Coming home is always a great thing. The plants survived, and the bird bath still had water in it. The tomatoes are ripe on the vine. Our little dog Lulu was happy to see us. Everything will be back to normal on Tuesday.

The kids will be walking past my house their happy laughter music to my ears. The last few weeks of summer are here. I have a theory that what made the West advance was winter. My parents used to sing a song about “when the works all done this fall.” That is a line that holds promise for all the things that didn’t fit in during a busy summer of gathering food and getting ready for winter. During the winter was time when mental energy could be used to figure out ways to make the work of the next summer easier.

When you live in a climate where you pick the mango off the tree and there is always a fish to catch for dinner. What thought needs to be given for tomorrow. Winter makes one give thought about tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. It’s a long time from freeze up to the first harvest of anything.

I can see how I could easily adapt to a life style of leisure and living off what is there to pick and catch all year long. We adapt to where we are, blooming where we are planted. Where life is hard we become industrious to survive. Survival of the fit.

While in Jamaica we visited Green Grotto Cave and it has a history of being a refuge for people who were fleeing. First the slaves fled from the Spanish, then the English took over from the Spanish and the former slaves helped the Spanish flee the English. It is a big cave but when the light is turned off you can’t see your hand in front of your face. There is an in ground lake with drinkable water many feet below the surface of the cave. How they found it we are told is they followed the roots of the Banyon tree which is a Ficus tree and they knew “where the Banyan tree grows there is water.” Finding it in the darkness shows the will to survive.

“People often associate complexity with deeper meaning, when often after precious time has been lost, it is realized that simplicity is the key to everything.”
― Gary Hopkins

I found a story about Farmer Sadiman a man from Dali in Central Javi. He realized that the water shortage problem that happens during the dry season could be alleviated by planting trees, especially Banyan trees. He first discovered this when he found that many rubber trees were no longer producing rubber latex. The water shortage was so severe the tree trunks had dried up.

Over nineteen years he used his own money to plant trees on the denuded hill sides. Two of the trees he planted were banyan and lamtoro.

Unlike rubber trees that absorb groundwater, banyan trees can retain groundwater. The more banyan trees planted means, the more villagers will get clean water,” he said. After 19 years, Sadiman said he could not remember how many trees he had planted on the previously deforested hill. However, data from Geneng subdistrict office reported that at least 11,000 trees, including 4,000 banyan trees, had been planted over the past 19 years across 100 hectares of land on Gendol Hill and the neighboring Ampyangan Hill.

While 30 subdistricts in Wonogiri have been suffering from a water crisis since earlier this year, Geneng has become one of among the few subdistricts in the regency that seem unperturbed with this year’s prolonged dry season.

At first they laughed at his idea, thinking it was too simple of a solution to such a big problem. He has been proven right. What simple solutions are we overlooking? Who has great ideas we are laughing at? Why hasn’t every district and subdistrict planted these trees?

It saddens me when I see sub divisions where no trees are planted. The obligatory tree is planted by the city but sometimes the owners of the home do not plant anything at all.

We can all plant a tree. We know it works. Is it better if it is the right tree in the right place? Perhaps, but you are where you are, plant a tree, any tree that grows will be better than none. We can’t wait for someone else to do what we can do. Who is this mythical person who will solve the problems we need to solve ourselves? It seems so small what can one tree do? What could 7 billion trees do?

We don’t want to think that simple solutions can solve big problems, because then any fool could solve the problem and we are too smart  for that.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
― E.F. Schumacher

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Destination wedding at Iberostar Jamaica. Fun and frivolity, bonding over breakfast. A week of memories.

Photo of Iberostar by Belynda Wilson Thomas

They gave each other a smile with a future in it. Ring Lardner

I have now entered a new stage in my life. I am a mother in law. Big changes are ahead as I see my daughter take her place and build her own family.

The wedding at Iberostar Jamaica was fabulous. The day started out with a light rain in the morning. So happy my daughter got her shower of blessings but it did not impact the ceremony on the beach.

We started getting ready early with hair and makeup. I wore false eyelashes for the first time. My daughter had eye lash extensions so the makeup artist said the false eyelashes could go on someone else. We had all day to get ready and we still seemed rushed at the end.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures but a lot of pictures were taken I will have access to. The dress was a challenge to take to Jamaica. We finally decided to vacuum seal it and stuff it in a carryon bag. With baited breath I asked my daughter how the dress fared when we arrived at the hotel at 11:00 pm which should have been about 6:00 but our flight was delayed. “I haven’t opened it yet,” she says.

We were starving so although I didn’t want to, we left the dress for the morning. We went to eat at the midnight buffet. By the time we got there it was just scraps left. The Chef came over to us and said, “I’m going to cook up some lobster for you guys.” In about 20 minutes he cooked up lobster in a teriyaki sauce.

The next morning with fear and trepidation we opened the carry on case and released the dress. It needed steaming but that was the way to carry it down. I thought the seamstress that did the alterations had done this before but she had seen the dresses released from vacuum packing not vacuum packed one herself. I recommend it, if you have a “big” dress to carry to a destination wedding, vacuum pack it. The plane was full and “the dress” had to be carryon.

If nothing else arrived in Jamaica “the dress” needed to. No luggage was lost from any of the guests. Everyone arrived safe and sound and had a lovely time.

Happiness [is] only real when shared Jon Krakauer

A shout out to Iberostar Jamaica. We stayed at The Rose Hall Beach the lowest level of the three. Some say this is the fun level and we had fun, especially the young folk who regularly got about three hours of sleep per night. The staff was fabulous, friendly and accommodating. The beach was great. We all ate too much food. Lighter fare at home and the gym will take care of the pounds I put on. The laundry steamed my daughters dress and brought it to the room she was dressing in the morning of the wedding. I carried a steamer just to be safe but we didn’t need it.

The bridesmaids in coral dresses against the beach were beautiful. I haven’t seen the pictures the photographer took but I expect them to be great. The Groom and groomsmen were handsome in grey pants and grey shirts with turquoise bow ties. We wrapped the bridesmaid’s bouquets in turquoise ribbon to match the bow ties.

Are there a few things we would do different? Of course, we left the flowers to the last minute and we didn’t need to. There is something about the last minute flurry I must like. I always seem to have last minute things to do and maybe I would feel lost if that wasn’t the case.

Two of the charger plates we used for the centre pieces broke but we carried super glue and the wedding department glues them together. They set up everything according to my daughter’s vision. We had a private reception for three hours with a DJ and then changed and went to the disco till 3:00am.

I recommend a destination wedding, it was so much fun. Wedding and vacation all in one. No wonder destination weddings are on the rise. For parents of the bride and groom it was less stressful than it would have been if we had to accommodate our guests with food and transportation etc at home.

Did I cry at the wedding? I thought I would, but I didn’t. I thought I would cry when I gave my speech. When I was speaking to random people telling them we were in Jamaica for my daughter’s wedding I would feel a tear in my eye and a catch in my voice. Weird isn’t it, it’s always the little things that get me. The big things I’m ready for. Putting the veil on my daughter was emotional, we kept it together. We couldn’t ruin her makeup that early.

They are off to a great start. The support from friends and family has been amazing. The rest is up to them. The memories we all made this week are priceless. So blessed!

Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that’s a real treat.

Joanne Woodward

 

 

Marriage and family. Women are still choosing marriage.

Choose Love by Being Loving photo of coral rose by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow–this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

I am reading women with higher education are choosing marriage more than women without higher education. I believe this is a surprise to some. Why would this be a surprise? Marriage provides the best chance for a relationship focused on personal growth.

Raising a family is not for the faint of heart. It takes everything we have to be good parents and raise healthy, happy, responsible children. We are not the same people at the end of the journey as we were at the start. I think most of us feel an innate need to have a child.

Education gives us choice, finding a partner is a drive most of us have. Choosing a good mate is the biggest choice of our life. That educated women are making this choice is not a surprise to me. They can afford to live on their own but they don’t want to. Why would anyone want to live alone? Men didn’t want to live alone when they had the means.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune,must be in want of a wife. Jane Austen

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Marriage creates a bond we are seeking, a fulfillment we are longing. Finding a mate we can go through life with is one of the keys to happiness. Many will agree with me and many will not. I feel people who have found a suitable partner and weathered the journey together are among the happiest people on earth.

If it is correct there is a happiness curve, we are happier after fifty and before thirty five. We are idealists in our youth, realists in our older years, and unhappy with our lot in the middle. This may be why if we get through the tough slogging of thirty five to fifty with an intact marriage we feel pretty good. Those are also the year’s most of us are busy with kids and work with little time for ourselves.

Being married and having children has brought most of the joy I have in my life. I can’t imagine life without the closeness of family. I think whatever choices and sacrifices have been made for family are worth it. Because I think this, doesn’t make it true for everyone.

“Where there is love there is life.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

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Advice for my daughter as she starts her married journey.

Choose love - Photo of five coral roses photo by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
– Lao Tzu

Love is a verb. Watch what you say, especially when you aren’t feeling loving.

Talk about everything.

Sometimes you have to give first. Try not to hold a grudge.

Be slow to anger, and quick to forgive.

Make time for each other, especially when you have children.

Know that even though you can’t have everything at the same time, it doesn’t mean you can’t make your dreams come true. You need to know what your goals are and work toward them however slowly. Persistence is more important than speed.

You should never be the least important person on your list.

The greatest gift you can give your children is to love their father.

There are two sides to every story. Try and see things from another’s point of view.

Life goes by fast; enjoy the journey, when you get the chance to dance, “dance.”

Never give up your good habits.

Make being fit and healthy throughout your life one of your life goals.

You can’t change anyone but yourself. Learn to accept yourself and others with kindness and humor. We are all struggling with something. Control your inner control freak. Become a role model instead of an advice giver.

When you take it out, put it back.

Organization, order and structure are needed to keep a good house, build a good life, raise healthy, happy and productive children.

Delegate responsibility, then let them be responsible. Don’t micromanage.

Don’t be afraid of failure. You can’t risk success if you don’t risk failure.

“Who, being loved, is poor?”
– Oscar Wilde

One of your most important decisions is who you surround yourself with. We should surround our self with people who embody the traits we want to develop. We become like those we surround our self with. When people are in each other’s company their brain waves begin to look nearly identical. The company we keep has an enormous affect on our happiness.

Look good to feel good, but don’t let your looks define you. Your beautiful inside and out, nurture and grow inner and outer beauty.

Develop your gifts, don’t compare yourself to others.

Happiness is an inside job. Outside accomplishments don’t make you happy. Finding your purpose, helping others, gratitude and love are the keys to a good life.

I love you more than a whale loves it’s tail.

Being your mom has been one of the great joys of my life. Watching you take this step in your life makes me proud of the woman you’ve become.

There is always a new up, and a new down coming, learn to surf the waves of life.

Appreciate what life has to offer in all its stages.

This is your life; you don’t have to ask permission to live it.

 “Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.”
– Plato

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Living in truth and honesty. The truth will set us free. Living a lie gets us nothing but heartache and misery.

Photo of two hibiscus by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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“The first principle is that you must not fool yourselfand you are the easiest person to fool.”Richard Feynman

It isn’t always easy to tell the truth. People have committed suicide because they didn’t know how to tell the truth. How do we come to grips with who we really are, what the circumstances of our life really are?

Being our self, accepting our imperfections, is part of living the “good life.”

I think we can live with almost any reality if we accept it.

When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits anything that kept me small. My judgement called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving. Kim McMillen    

We need to ask our self some hard questions. What is this reaction of mine trying to tell me? What do I need to take head on?

We need to become radical acceptors of reality. It is when we do this we become powerful. We cannot change what we don’t or won’t acknowledge. With knowledge comes power. We may think deceiving others is bad but it is the lies we tell our self that do the most damage.

I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do. Brene Brown

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Happy people enjoying life. It is fun to be part of the celebrators.

A Merry Heart Photo of hibiscus flower by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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Dreams get you into the future and add excitement to the present. Robert Conklin

We are reveling in the fun of togetherness. We are pampered. All we have to do all day is enjoy life at the beach.

Food is good and plentiful, drinks flow.  We enjoy, but not too much. There is a day coming where dresses need to fit. We can’t undo all that work by feasting too much.

Would a life of hedonism be fun for the long haul? Would I be bored if my life wasn’t filled with work? I would find something to fill my time. Relaxing in the ocean was a dream, now it is a reality, soon it will be a memory.

I have found that most of the things I want from living I must get from people. Robert Conklin

Happy golden moments, spent in each other’s company, relaxed and happy. We enjoy if more because it is fleeting. We greedily try to grab as much as we can in experience, laughter, sightseeing.

Words are not flowing, I am too excited. I am not in the moment. To write one must feel centered, focused, inspired. When this celebration is over I will write about it, now I will experience it.

Freed from real life for a short time, even from my blog.

If anything, the overriding emotion is gonna just be excitement. Christa McAuliffe

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Time waits for no one. It seems it will take so long for something to come until it sneaks up on us. Enjoy the moment.

Attitude Is A Choice - Photo of sweet pea by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
― William W. Purkey

Time has flown by, our daughter’s wedding is almost upon us. We had so much time. In a week it will be a memory. I hope we savor these moments, they don’t rush by.

Twenty six years have flown by. Our little girl is getting married. We want to see them take these steps in life. They signal steps we are taking too.

There will now be another household to host dinners. A new family is formed; she is still part of ours but now creating her own. It doesn’t seem like thirty two years ago I did the same. Time flies and creeps. The years have flown by in a happy blur.

We wonder did we do enough with our children when they were young? Did we go enough places and see enough things. They never got to Disney World does that make them deprived children? They have two parents that stayed together, does that make them blessed?

There is a point in the confusion, planning, packing, organizing and buying when we think it will never all get done. Yet, here we are, if there are any loose ends they will stay loose. It is freeing to know this is it. We can relax because there is nothing more we can do.

We’ve been manicured and pedicured, dresses altered, we are done. All this planning has come down to today. We sigh a sigh of relief and look forward to rest and relaxation, fun and frivolity and the celebration of a love story.

Life moves on, today is a big day in our lives, tomorrow is a big day in someone else’s. We enjoy the big moments and the small, they are the sum of our life.

 “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss

Real life is great, and may seem boring in the light of the exciting. The exciting only shines because of the rest of our life it is set against. If we enjoy each moment for the gifts it brings, we enjoy our life. There is always something to smile about.

“May you live every day of your life.”
― Jonathan Swift

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Marriage an oasis of peace, or descending to the depths of despair.

Photo of three marigolds by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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The truth may hurt for a little while but a lie hurts forever. Anonymous

What is it that makes some marriages and relationships descend into the depths of despair? Why do some couples bring out the best in each other and some people the worst? We hear of a seemingly perfect marriage the husband distraught as police hunt for the killer of his wife and daughters. He is the killer, what brings this on? What are the signs we are to look for in our own marriage, friends, and relatives? How can we help?

A dark subject as the eve of my daughter’s wedding nears. Is part of the problem there is never a good time to address the dark side of relationships?

Is domestic violence an economic issue? One of the ways the abuser can keep the victim captive is to make them economically dependent. Money is the power in our society and if we can’t afford to live without the person providing the money we are captive.

Many women have lived financially dependent on their husbands without their marriages descending into the depths of despair. We need to ask the questions whether we are in these violent relationships or know someone who is. Do we know someone who is in a violet relationship but we don’t know about the abuse? We always seem to learn about it only after they leave or the worst happens.

Sometimes giving someone a second chance is like giving them an extra bullet for their gun because they missed you the first time. Anonymous

I could be wrong but I think we shouldn’t keep secrets about the problems in our relationships, our home, and our family. These secrets can be toxic.

One of the things I love about being part of my book club is we talk about the important stuff. I do not mean we bash our husbands, because we don’t. We honestly talk about things that go on in our lives as we go through the stages of life. If we don’t talk about these things sometimes we think we are the only one in the situation we find our self in The only one having trouble with too much testosterone in the house as sons become men. The only one asking is this all there is? The only one wondering if we are doing the right thing, making the right choices, limiting  our selves when we should be bold and courageous.

We learn we aren’t the only one who doesn’t like the choices our children are making. We learn if we don’t give up on our children they will learn from their mistakes and go onto build a life. We have to learn to let go, give up control, and let others lead their own lives. We learn from others what works and what doesn’t work. It seems to me, we have been a group since 2000 the members who have been most open about the problems in their life have done the best relationship wise. Dealing with problems is part of the answer. Being too optimistic in relationships doesn’t help us deal with the problems. Nothing changes until something changes. If we have a problem, we need to deal with it, not pretend to everyone everything is okay.

Never get mad at someone for being who they’ve always been. Be upset with yourself for not coming to terms with it sooner. Anonymous

We know a lot of people who have experienced many things. If we don’t talk about our experiences we don’t know how we can profit from other’s knowledge. We don’t have to travel these roads alone.

We are not perfect, our relationships aren’t perfect, our children aren’t perfect, our financial situation isn’t perfect, our health isn’t perfect. If we embrace our imperfections can we make things better? If we don’t acknowledge what is going on, do we make things worse?

Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. J.K. Rowling

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Momentous moments. Building our lives one moment at a time. The soundtrack of life.

Photo of pink roses by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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“Many of the most deeply spiritual moments of my life haven’t happened just in my mind or in my soul. They happened while holding my son in the middle of the night, or watching the water break along the shore, or around my table, watching the people I love feel nourished in all sorts of ways.” Shauna Niequiest

As we gear up to a momentous moment in ours and my daughter’s life. I recount the momentous moments in mine. They are fewer than the regular moments, they punctuate ordinary life.

In the garden of life we have our show stoppers but the background creates the scaffolding around which the show stoppers shine. There is no show stopping without the background.

Building a good life is all about the back ground and the scaffolding, the every day. The show stopper is the ice cream sundae, or cheesecake in our diet. A great treat but not something to live on.

We live only for the high points at our peril. Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book Romancing The Ordinary tells us women have not five sences but seven. As well as sight, sound, scent, taste, touch she feels we have “knowing” women’s intuition and “wonder” our sense of rapture and reverence. We are encouraged to find what moves us to tears, what feeds our soul, what makes our blood rush, our heart skip a beat and our soul sigh. We are encouraged to look at the unwrapped gifts that come everyday.

“Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but of moments. You must experience each one before you can appreciate it.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

We experience the glimpse of a sunrise we see because we are up early because of a child, the rush to get something done, or writing a blog. The morning hours before the house stirs is one of my favorite times. Sipping black coffee as I write. I used to love it with cream, “that’s another story.”

My dog Lulu woofs a low woof, what does she hear, what interrupts her sleep on the stair? I wonder as I sit here, after this wedding is over, what will we remember and cherish about this time. The planning, bonding over bouquets and boutonnieres, shopping for “the dress,” the hair and makeup tryouts?

There was a movie I watched about a man who only lived the high points, the rest of life zipped past as if on fast forward. Of course he missed his child growing up, his marriage because these are the everyday moments that build a life. We can’t remember them as easily as the highlights. The everyday builds to the big moments. You can’t just have the highlights, no one can. I don’t think we live life unless we go through the deep, the shallow, the highs, the lows, the important and unimportant.

My husband played his pick for the father daughter dance last night. I cried, I can’t remember the name of the song, only that it is a perfect choice. It seems to me there is a sound track that runs through life. I remember the songs Dad and mom used to sing as the sound track of my youth. The songs we danced to in the disco days are the sound track of my early adulthood.

Our last trip to Jamaica there was a sound track. There will be a soundtrack for this trip as well. Songs take us back to where we were, how we felt, and what we were going through. As corny as it sounds “A DJ Saved My Life” might be true.

Each person’s soundtrack will be as individual as themselves. Where our soundtracks intersect we find a bond. I’ve heard when they play the music seniors grew up with they act younger. I believe it, songs take us back to places we’ve been and people we were with.

Life is rich with sights and sounds, tastes, touch and scents. A woman from my Horticultural Society says she can’t smell Hyacinths without thinking about funerals. Smelling the air before rain I think about my mom who used to say a robin told her “there’ll be rain, there’ll be rain.” When I walk on crunchy snow, I think about walks with my dad to check on the cows before going to bed. The crisp winter air, the moon in the sky, a cow with a brand new calf beside her.

When I smell the smell of our garage in the heat of summer, it sometimes reminds me of kittens, because we found our momma cat one day with brand new kittens on a bed of nails in the garage.

Memories bring us back to special moments in the tapestry of our life. Special moments are both big and small; the small ones are often the most poignant. They are the ones that bring tears to my eyes.

“Sometimes it’s the same moments that take your breath away that breathe purpose and love back into your life.”  Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You

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Gratitude and happiness. We are so blessed, does feeling blessed make the difference?

Accepting What Is - Belynda Wilson Thomas photo of three petunias

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“If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.”
– Harold Kushner

Feelings of gratitude flood my being as I sit here writing. That I am able to write is something I am deeply grateful for. The computer I write with, the notebooks I can purchase, the pens I buy. The internet that allows me to push a button and put my words out there. The health and strength I am blessed with. My family, my muse Lulu, my home, my livelihood, living in peace and plenty. There is so much to be grateful for, my cup runneth over.

Does being grateful make a difference in our lives? A study published by the Greater Good Science Centre at UC Berkeley tells us that 300 college students seeking mental health counseling at one university were randomly assigned to one of three groups.

The first group was required to write a letter of gratitude to another person each week for three weeks. The second group wrote down their negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The third group did not engage in any writing activity.

The results: The first group reported significantly improved mental health, lowering of depression and anxiety at the four week mark as well as 12 weeks after the writing exercise ended.

Researchers dug deeper using an MRI scanner they found the brain activity of the gratitude versus negative writing groups differed. Three months after the writing activities the grateful group showed greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex, an area in the brain associated with learning and decision making. This indicates that simply by expressing gratitude we may have a lasting effect on our brain. Shifting our thoughts away from toxic emotions improves our well being.

“Thank you” is the essence of nonviolence. It contains respect for the other person, humility and a profound affirmation of life. It possesses a positive, upbeat optimism. It has strength. A person who can sincerely say thank you has a healthy, vital spirit; and each time we say it our hearts sparkle and our life force rises up powerfully from the depths of our being. (April 2015 Living Buddhism, p. 16)

Does this make some people feel worse or better? Are we more in control of our life than we think we are? This information comes to us wrapped in new wrapping from time to time. It is part of all religious traditions.

“There’s something called a grateful personality that some psychologists have studied,” said Jo-Ann Tsang, a psychologist at Baylor University. “They find that if you’re greater in the grateful personality, you tend to have increased life satisfaction, happiness, optimism, hope, positive emotion, and … less anxiety and depression.”

Can we uncouple gratitude from religion?

Robert Emmons a psychologist at the University of California says. Gratitude is the truest approach to life. We did not create or fashion ourselves. We did not birth ourselves. Life is about giving, receiving, and repaying. We are receptive beings, dependent on the help of others, on their gifts and their kindness.

“You see—none of this have I framed in a religious context or using religious/spiritual language,” he concluded.

Michael McCullough a psychologist at the University of Miami thinks there’s another reason for the ubiquity of gratitude: It’s an evolutionarily beneficial trait, hardwired into the human brain.

“Even things that are culturally constructed have to have a home somewhere up in the mind to come out in our thoughts and our behavior,” he said. “Like all emotions, [gratitude] was plausibly designed by natural selection. There’s some tissue up in the head whose job it is to produce gratitude.”

The evolutionary explanation for this, he said, is probably that gratitude helps people initiate friendships and alliances—which then help people survive.

His research suggests that when people do nice things for others unexpectedly, that produces gratitude—and increases the likelihood that people will do something “in kind” (“a really rich phrase, when you think about it,” he added). Although scientists can’t know the exact neurological nature of gratitude, they look at behaviors like these as a proxy for understanding why people feel certain emotions, like thankfulness.

Wow, all we thought we were doing is saying “thank you.” According to these experts we are changing our brain. If we practice gratitude in our lives we make our life better regardless of whether we see gratitude as a religious practice or merely a way of being. It seems gratitude is the choice we should all make. It costs us nothing to be grateful, pays huge dividends, eases our relationships with other people and improves our brain.

Is there a difference between feeling grateful and gratitude?

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”
– Henri Frederic Amiel

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GRATITUDE/TRADE (Hay) Paperback – October 1, 1996