During Stressful Times, Create A Gratitude Garden

Emotional generosity might be helpful to us during these divisive, angry, and stressful times. What is happening? A charged political season. Gun control.  Protests, from peacefully taking the knee to standing on street corners holding up signs.  The zero tolerance immigration policy that is ripping apart families. There is a rise in racism. Add to these the concerns and issues regarding children’s health programs and women’s reproductive health needs through Planned Parenthood, which shouldn’t cause controversy and yet it does. Taken together we are beginning to feel like two nations. What can we do? We can try to create the type of energy that brings about emotional generosity through the inner workings of a gratitude garden.

In 2012 researchers reported on the value of gardening activities in therapeutic and rehabilitation. Here is a suggestion for an emotional garden that can mimic in some ways results that Detweiller et al discussed as benefits to the elderly in Psychiatry Investigation

“Preliminary studies have reported the benefits of horticultural therapy and garden settings in reduction of pain, improvement in attention, lessening of stress, modulation of agitation, lowering of as needed medications, antipsychotics and reduction of falls.” What Is the Evidence to Support the Use of Therapeutic Gardens for the Elderly?

The Abundance Garden

The abundance garden is really a garden of gratitude and forgiveness that helps modulate anger and resentment. In today’s society, this is critical.

We can express gratitude by writing thank you notes, making gratitude visits especially to the elderly, putting the words “thank you” into our vocabulary, volunteering our time. As Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at University of California at Davis, reminded me during an earlier interview:

“Gratitude is an attitude, not a feeling that can be easily willed.” Even if you are not satisfied with your life as it is today, he pointed out, “if you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. It is like improving your posture and as a result becoming more energetic and self-confident.”

Here are some of the steps:

Forgive:  Forgiveness is a challenge.  And often, we do not really want to forgive.  Sometimes, we even find it difficult to forgive ourselves and we walk around with feelings of gnawing anxiety.  Who is it that is the most difficult to forgive? Look inside your heart and most often you will find that the person who is most difficult to forgive is the person you most love.

Forget the wrongs and focus on the rights: Shift your focus from feelings of anger or resentment or grudges — it is your own health that is harmed. Instead write out three reasons that you were or still are attracted to the person who hurt you.  Those feelings of resentment are the roadblock that prevents you from receiving your good.

Acknowledging your role: Imagine the person whom you perceive has wronged you — is it a boss, a neighbor, a relative, your lover or spouse? Write out one reason that you believe is why he or she may have hurt you.   

Then admit to yourself how you might have contributed to his or her decision to be unkind to you – even though it may be just a remote possibility.

Wish blessings: Focus on the person with whom you are angry, the person whom you feel wronged you. Wish blessings by writing a list so that you can see that you are wishing that person or persons calm, loving moments. Wish peace. Wish happiness. Wish good fortune.  Wish money. The good thoughts you send to others are returned to you.

Weeding the garden

The abundance garden is filled with forgiveness, blessings, compliments, thank you notes, support of others, and general expressions of gratitude involving words and visits.  And remember that it should be weeded daily.

Watch out for the weeds of criticism, snide remarks, or unkind words about to slip from your tongue. Be mindful of the silent treatment or need to get even.  Once you break the resentment bond, you open up a space in your heart. The universe will respond by filling that empty place with blessings — setting the stage for the emotional generosity that attracts abundance.

 As with any garden, keeping up with the weeds is a challenge. Although this garden is focused on oneself and inner circle, emotional generosity is expansive and doable.  This is a lesson we learned from the inspiration of the late Senator John McCain.

Copyright 2018 Rita Watson

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