Optimism and gratitude go together hand in hand, like two sides of the same coin. Gratitude is the practice of looking back and being thankful. Optimism is the practice of looking forward and being hopeful.
Welcome back to our Co-Creative Mandalas blog!
Each month, we share insights, inspiration, and all the ways the cycles of the Great Mandala uplift and support you. We draw upon the metaphors and messages of each season to explore and celebrate our individual and collective journeys toward Unity.
The Co-Creative Mandalas have a name that represents something about the natural world and
the energy of the current time.
This month's mandala is Optimism.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US and November comes to an end, I'm delighted to express my gratitude for YOU, for your personal practices and your efforts toward helping make our world a better place. It's because of you that I feel such optimism about the future.
Today, many of us in the US will sit with our families and friends at the Thanksgiving table, hold hands, and humbly express our gratitude for the blessings in our lives. How ever you celebrate Thanksgiving (or even if you don't), you may have a similar ritual.
I love this Thanksgiving ritual. Practicing it one day a year is a great way to incorporate gratitude into our life. Why not enjoy all the benefits of gratitude year 'round by intentionally practicing gratitude in daily life?
What is gratitude, anyway?
Gratitude is one of many expansive emotions. It's about focusing on what's good in our lives by pausing to notice and appreciate the people in our lives--family and friends, and the things that we may take for granted, like having a place to live, food, clean water, and even internet access.
What is the difference between being grateful and thankful? Where thankfulness is an emotion, gratitude is an attitude of appreciation under any circumstance. Gratitude involves being thankful, but it is more than that. Gratitude means expressing thankfulness and being appreciative of life daily. The effects are profound.
Think of gratitude as a very powerful, felt experience that dispels constricted energy and clears disruptions to our energy system, just as a candle dispels darkness or breath work opens our awareness. I wonder what would happen if we intentionally shifted our attention toward gratitude on a continual basis? What would life be like? What would it feel like? What would it look like?
What are the benefits of practicing gratitude?
Scientific evidence is mounting that the act of practicing gratitude has far reaching psychological and physiological benefits. These include reduced inflammation, lower blood pressure, less pain, more exercise, and better sleep (Lindberg, 2019), as well as reduced fatigue, improved immune function, and cardiovascular health.
Studies (and experiences) also show that gratitude helps us connect with others and build and strengthen relationships. It helps others feel good about themselves when they hear that they are appreciated. Practicing gratitude boosts self-esteem. When you focus on appreciating who you are, (yes, even those parts of yourself), you are remembering your wholeness, your goodness. That's a powerful practice!
Gratitude increases satisfaction with life. Appreciating what you have, taking stock of your experiences, the joys in your life, and all your blessings, are important for enjoying life.
Gratitude is a habit you can cultivate, like brushing your teeth or drinking enough water! By taking time each and every day to focus on gratitude for all that you have, you’ll start to appreciate the gifts in your life even more. By focusing on the positive, you invite more positivity into your life.
How will you practice gratitude today? How will you hold it in your heart every day?
Practicing gratitude cultivates optimism.
Thinking about what we're grateful for helps create optimism.
Optimism in action has the potential for changing the world.
Viewed through the lens of optimism, all the troubles--individually and collectively--we experience and see today offer ways for accelerating our individual and collective awakening. Rather than focusing on the crises (admittedly, by all appearances there are quite a few), we can choose to see the opportunities.
There are so many heartbreaks happening in the world right now. And still, that does not compare to the power of humanity to elevate and heal whatever situation we are in. Especially when we work together. That perspective gives us the choice to use our ability to transform and co-create a better world, one in which we are working together in Unity.
Gratitude is immersing ourselves in the greatness of life. It is the foundation of optimism.
Optimism is an extraordinary, free way to shift the constriction that comes from fear, division, and separation to the expansion that comes from wonder, curiosity, hope, and love. Optimism isn't about deluding ourselves into believing something that’s not true. It’s about noticing where our attention flows, and learning how to direct it in helpful, not harmful, ways.
How do gratitude and optimism create a brighter future?
Being mindfully grateful supports these qualities of optimism: positive emotion, resilience, and social connection. If you want more expansive energy in your life (and by extension, in the world) now and for the future, there are plenty of simple ways to cultivate it. How about replacing complaints with gratitude statements? Be more mindful of and grateful for the current moment, and see little things that enhance your life — the gentle breeze, the colors of the fall leaves, the warmth and comfort of sharing a meal with people we love and care about. Incorporate Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT Tapping) into your self-care routines to help clear the blocks to your energy system.
We can also practice gratitude as a way of living that shapes our experiences and fosters optimism by turning the expressions of gratitude back toward ourselves, allowing us to be an embodiment of gratitude. These feelings and sensations of gratitude--warmth, joy, ease, safety, and connection--activate self-repair, self-regulation, and healing. Even on difficult days, accessing and embodying gratitude helps shift our perspective and our perception of our experiences from constriction to expansion and toward optimism.
Every day we have the opportunity to be grateful for what is. To believe that things can get better. To create space for new possibilities.
The Co-Creative Mandala "Optimism" below is from a photo of chrysanthemums (symbolize optimism, joy, and well-being) and are associated with the solar plexus, heart, and crown chakras. It reminds us that we are here to fulfill our potential for learning, growing, and remembering our wholeness. The story we tell ourselves makes all the difference in how we see the world; choose a life story that supports and sustains you.
When we acknowledge and then accept our circumstances, and choose gratitude and optimism, we are led to hope and happiness.
Dr. Gregory Jantz