Recently I received an email laced with unfair criticism, and my first reaction was to get defensive. I could feel my mind speeding up, getting ready to argue. Then I had a flash of insight and remembrance: You can’t fight darkness with more darkness. I decided instead to neutralize negativity with gratitude. I thought about this person and recalled several things about him for which I was grateful. Within minutes my happiness level began to climb. I realized then that gratitude brings happiness.
Certain foods—leafy greens, vegetables, citrus fruits—cleanse and detox the body. Gratitude cleanses and removes toxins from the mind and heart. Gratitude, like fruits and vegetables, can be cultivated.
Try this: Each night before sleep, review your day and think of one person, one event, and one thing for which you are grateful. Vary this so you don’t repeat anything for at least a week. This will train the mind to carry gratitude into the subconscious state. At first you may have to ignore, or even push away negative thoughts. Later you won’t want them around any more than you would play with a rattlesnake.
Accept that life is full of challenges, and find a way to recast them in a positive light. In a letter, Paramhansa Yogananda wrote, “I used to come home, my hair saturated with smoke and my eyes burning after luncheon talks. I felt even suffocated. One day I made up my mind, Divine Spirit was smoke and light, and I was never bothered since. Mind is everything, whichever way you train it.” Turning a light on or off takes the same amount of effort. Why not choose the light?
Gratitude is naturally expansive. When you feel circumstances trying to contract your heart into anger, judgment, or despair, push back with thankfulness. Try to do this immediately, when your instinctual reaction is to contract. This will help train new and brighter neural patterns.
You don’t need to be perfect, but you do need to try. Little steps lead to long journeys.
The object of your gratitude matters only a little. What is important is the stream of thankfulness itself. That flow will warm the icy caverns that egotism has carved into your heart. Don’t be afraid to recognize your foes and even give them names. It’s hard to take your moods seriously when you say, “The Anger Gorilla is back again,” or “The Ice Queen of Judgment is about to make a pronouncement.”
Expand your heart: Take a moment and contemplate the web of people who make it possible for you to read this. There are those in the computer industry who design, manufacture, ship, and sell the device you are using. There are millions more involved in the trades that make your home or car possible. The chair you sit in has its own network of materials, production, roads, highways, and shipping that brought it to your doorstep. I could go on, but it is better if you do. Think in ever-widening circles of the incredible web that sustains you. Thank them, and most especially thank Divine Mother, who is, literally, the Mother of us all.
Gratitude will make you happy.