One of the problems with grief is feeling imprisoned in a negative quagmire. Chained to an emotional roller coaster.

Yet it is possible to experience freedom while grieving.

Grief is a journey, a passage of sorts. And like all journeys you get to the other side one step at a time. Moment by moment. The key is to stay present in the moment as you give yourself the freedom to fully feel ALL your emotions. Pause. Remember emotions are energy in motion. Moment by moment you have the power of choice to be pulled into the past or the future and then return to the present.

And practicing gratitude anchors you in the present.

You stop, get out of your spinning mind, and notice what’s around you and in you. And you connect with the moment.

Does this sound a little woo-woo to you? Then read what the research says.

Researchers have conducted many studies on the practice of gratitude.

Two such researchers are Robert A. Emmons from the University of California Davis and Micheal E. McCullogh from the University of Miami. They conducted a long-term research project studying the effects of gratitude. Study participants were divided between those who kept a gratitude journal or list and those who did not.

Here are some of their findings:

  • Participants who kept gratitude journal on a weekly basis saw significant benefits. They exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week. Those who did not recorded having more hassles or neutral life events.
  • Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to make progress toward important personal goals over a two-month period.
  • In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention was given. A gratitude habit resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods. They also experienced a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic about life, and had better sleep duration and quality.
  • Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.
  • People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others. They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks.

Let me be clear. Deciding to practice gratitude is not denying or avoiding your grief. It’s not “positive thinking”. Pain will still hit you at times. Your mind will still spin out of control in a negative loop.

But gratitude is a powerful emotion. Tap into it by recognizing the little daily miracles as they occur. For example, being grateful for the volunteer sunflowers from last year’s garden. Or tasting the first red ripe strawberry that the wild bunny didn’t eat. Or noticing the many variegated colors of green in the early spring trees.

Notice. And be grateful.

As these daily miracles occur, I like to say aloud, “Thanks be for this miracle!” I’ve found it most effective to write it down as I notice. Then at the end of the day re-write it in my gratitude journal.

So this July, when we typically celebrate freedom, I invite you to start a gratitude journal. Oh say can you see…each little miracle and write it down. Experience freedom in moments of gratitude.

Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,

If you’re struggling with the emotional process of grief...

I want to share a free gift with you that can help you recognize the physical, cognitive and emotional reactions you may be experiencing. You’ll also take away prompts to use daily along your journey.

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