I’ve written several posts about the free or low-cost educational opportunities many communities offer to those who are 50+. I continue to be amazed at the breadth of subject matter and quality of instruction these classes, workshops, lectures, and field trips offered.
Last semester, among several classes my husband and I attended, were a couple of exceptional one-day workshops offered by our local OASIS Institute. Teaching them was a tenured professor of Philosophy and Humanities at a local college and a popular speaker at both OASIS and Osher. The depth of his knowledge was amazing and his skills as a lecturer quite impressive.
One of his workshops was titled Practicing Gratitude. By weaving religion, philosophy, poetry, culture, and modern-day challenges, the instructor was able to shine a light on why we are wired to react more strongly to negative events instead of positive ones and remember insults rather than praise. Even when positive experiences outnumber negative ones, we often will focus on the negative.
Our proclivity to look for threats and be hyper aware of potential negative outcomes was hard-wired into our prehistoric brains. Our early relatives wouldn’t have lived very long by assuming everything would turn out great if they just looked on the bright side of life. Their world was full of threats and their survival depended on being wary and watchful.
Fortunately in our modern world, embracing a positive outlook and practicing gratitude won’t get us eaten by a saber-toothed cat. That’s not to say we should turn a blind-eye to possible threats and naively expect that everyone has our best interests at heart. We still need to remain attentive and protect ourselves from harm. But, we can change the way we react to events and alter our perspective by proactively and consciously practicing gratitude. Even a negative experience can yield a positive outcome (if only a small nugget of one) if we train ourselves to look for it.
Many people have embraced the practice of gratitude and have found that by doing so, they have become calmer and feel happier. Suspicion and hyper-vigilance can be exhausting and depressing. In order to help them focus, some people keep a gratitude journal; others begin every day by making a mental list of people and things they are grateful for. Beginning on the first Tuesday after the new year, I started to write a weekly GratiTuesday post. I hope to keep it up throughout 2016 and beyond.
Today, I am so very grateful for the incredible lifelong learning opportunities available to me. The instructors, volunteers, sponsors, and donors work together to inspire and engage us so we never stop learning.
What are you grateful for?