Thank you for life
Thank you for everything
I stand here in grace and gratitude
And I thank you ...
Recently, I stumbled into the kitchen in the morning after a late-night recording session, only fragilely awake. My 20-year-old daughter Zoe saw me -- disheveled and inarticulate. She threw open her arms and exclaimed: "It's Mom!"
It was such a guileless gesture, like a cross between the enthusiasm of a three-year-old getting a gift, and Ed McMahon introducing Johnny Carson. It immediately put a grin on my face, and kick-started my morning with a blast of sunshine -- even without the help of caffeine! So I threw open my arms and said "It's Zoe!" and we both laughed.
It got me thinking about the power of compliments. I remember years ago I took Zoe, then eight, and two of her young friends to see an exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. I was pleased that the girls seemed genuinely interested in the display, and I told them so. Molly grinned from ear to ear and said, "A compliment! I love compliments!" Her joy cracked me up, and I often think about that comment when I feel a glow myself upon being acknowledged.
Who doesn't love compliments? When they are genuine, they have the power to transform your mood instantly. Appreciation is a wonderful thing. A few words, a small thing to give, but what a huge effect on the receiver.
On the other hand, we have complaints.
Hearing even a few negative words can be a major buzzkill. Those snarly, glass-half-full comments, whether from a housemate or a grocery store cashier, can be a wet blanket on your mood campfire. Attitude is contagious.
Can you imagine a world where no one complained? Reverend Will Bowen did just that in his book, A Complaint Free World.
His idea is simple: put a purple, rubber bracelet on either wrist and, when you catch yourself complaining, switch the bracelet to the other wrist. Many people believe that it takes 21 consecutive days of a new behavior for it to become habit. So, by switching the bracelet from wrist to wrist with each complaint until you have gone 21 consecutive days, you will establish a habit of being complaint free.
His foundation has distributed over 6 million free purple bracelets in over 106 countries.
The effect of learning to master our complaining is profound -- whether it is our dissatisfaction with the weather, the performance of the Toronto Maple Leafs, or our reaction to finding out the kids didn't take out the trash.
When we choose to stop the negative commentary, even about the daily list of frustrations we all encounter, and instead find and be grateful for the gift in every situation, it changes our inner dialogue, our outlook and our stress levels!
When I was writing the CD Grace and Gratitude with Olivia Newton-John, we explored in our lyrics the role that gratitude played in healing. As she was recovering from cancer, Olivia had been advised to adopt a practice of gratitude, in words, thoughts and in writing. She was told that changing worry to gratitude can dramatically affect the way our body responds to stress.
In his book Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, author Dr. Robert Emmons concludes that "the benefits of practicing gratitude include an increased ability to cope with stress, a stronger immune function leading to quicker recovery from illness, and an increased feeling of connectedness, which helps to improve relationships."
With the internet, we have all become aware of the phenomenon of viral growth. In our own lives, with every word we utter, we can start a chain reaction. We can do it in our own houses, to our kids, our partners -- a few heartfelt words of appreciation can dress up a room more than fancy furniture. But we can also practice it with everyone we come in contact with. An affirming sentence to a co-worker, a waitress, or a bus driver, can charge their day with positive energy.
So next time I have the choice to mindfully express appreciation or mindlessly grumble, I will try to remember that the force is with me! What will you choose to pay forward?
Download Grace and Gratitude for free from www.amysky.bandcamp.com
EMI recording artist Amy Sky is a singer/songwriter, author and mental health advocate.
Follow Amy Sky on Twitter: www.twitter.com/amysky