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WINGS Feature Article – The Secret to Joy and Survival

Ace of Cups

The Secret to Joy and Survival

As the heavy, revolutionary tension between Pluto and Uranus gears up for yet another confrontation (Dec. 15), world events are reflecting the fundamental upheaval that my friend Byron Ballard calls “Tower Times.”

No one is immune to the fear, anxiety, and underlying sense of helplessness so rampant these days. Unless you are completely out of touch, negativity — and even despair —  seem to be in the very air we breathe. So do we all need to just go hide in a cave somewhere?

I would be the last person to recommend that! In my observation, enlightened, sensitive people are needed the most right now. But because we are enlightened and sensitive, these assaults on our spirit are particularly corrosive.

Therefore, it is imperative that we find ways to remain balanced, open, and aware, while still living in, and being engaged with “the real world.” Most especially during these chaotic, energetically dangerous times.

Luckily, there are many ways to counterbalance the forebodings that sometimes may haunt us.  One of the easiest, most direct antidotes I know is to develop a daily gratitude practice.

More than just occasionally counting your blessings (which is a good start), a gratitude practice is the intentional setting aside of time to meditate, journal, and give thanks for specific gifts — every day.

Don’t misunderstand; a practice of gratitude is not a denial of life’s difficulties. Nor is it merely the “power of positive thinking” that one psychiatrist calls, “the psychology of sanctioned repression.”

Practicing gratitude is a form of mindfulness that can transform your life.

Research Supports Thankfulness

Psychologists Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami have studied the physical and emotional effects of focusing regularly on those experiences that enhance our lives and bring us joy and thankfulness, versus either being neutral, or focusing on the negative events of our day.

Healing lotusTheir findings have been remarkable.

Not only did those who focused regularly on gratitude test at higher levels of psychological well-being, they slept better, were more popular, needed less medication for chronic conditions, and had more energy.

Other studies, like those conducted by Dr. Alice M. Isen of Cornell indicate that regular practitioners of gratitude mindfulness are far better at problem-solving and are more altruistic than neutral control groups.

People who kept daily gratitude journals, for example, had fewer physical symptoms, exercised more, had a better outlook on life and were more likely to reach their goals.

Even people with neuromuscular disease who practiced daily gratitude had more high-energy positive moods, felt more connected to others, and felt more positive about life, in comparison to a control group.

Where attention goes, energy flows.

No matter how challenging life might be, starting a daily routine of listing specific experiences, people, and events for which you are grateful will change your attitude, bring you more satisfaction, and make you even more receptive to the good things life offers.

And perhaps best of all, you will create a contagious atmosphere of optimism and love around you, something we will all be grateful for.

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As we slide into the season that has become synonymous with consumerism, as well as moving through the second to last challenge of the four year long Uranus-Pluto square, this simple tool could make all the difference for your own peace of mind, as well as your ability to continue to serve a new awakening.

More next month.

(If you are having a sense of dejà vu as you read this, you’re right. This is an updated encore of an article I wrote back in 2008).