I recently saw a beautiful picture of Iguazu Falls in Argentina on the Internet. It reminded me of my visit several years ago. It was a magical experience. I remember watching the beautiful falls and closing my eyes to quiet my mind and enjoy the sound. When I opened them, I was covered in beautiful butterflies. It caused me to look into the life of butterflies in Argentina. The one of greatest interest to me is a species that lives for only 24 hours.
Watching these pretty little beings and trying to come to grips with the continuous shootings and unrest around the country makes me wonder: What if we all had only one day to live? Would we do things differently?
The waterfalls where the butterflies live are 250 million years old. In the scheme of things, comparing our longevity to the age of the falls, isn’t our life just a blink in time, or the comparative equivalent of 24 hours or less? None of us knows how long we have on this earth. That is painfully apparent. Maybe it is time to change our perspective.
These times we live in are difficult because many of us feel that our jobs, family and children should be happy, healthy and perfect. It would be wonderful if our lives turned out like a Hallmark movie. Unfortunately, that is not the way it usually works. Sometimes frustrating, irritating, painful and hurtful things happen. How we deal with these things can determine how we go on and ultimately, how healthy we are. There is a simple way to cope, survive, thrive and heal.
Simply put, it can be done with gratitude.
Finding things to be grateful for can help us feel better emotionally and physically. There is a fair amount of research available through Dr. Robert Emmons at the University of California at Davis. In one study, he divided his study subjects into three groups. As a daily activity, one group was asked to write five things that they were grateful for, another described five things that stressed them and the third group was asked to list any five events that affected them. After 10 weeks, those in the gratitude group felt better about their lives, exercised more and had fewer doctor visits compared to the other two groups.
In another study, people with neuromuscular disease such as post-polio syndrome were asked to write in a daily gratitude journal. After doing so, they were more optimistic about their lives and slept better when compared to the control group.
A study done in Connecticut found that people who had a heart attack and looked at it as a blessing (because it helped them to appreciate life more) had a lower risk of having a second heart attack compared to those who did not see it that way.
All that research supports the life-saving advice I follow myself: When things gets stressful and frustrating, take a moment and count your blessings. Think about those little butterflies that have only one day to live. It makes no sense to waste time with anger, grudges or regret. Identifying things that we are grateful for or expressing gratitude to people in our life who we appreciate makes a lot more sense. It costs nothing and the payoff is huge.
Gratitude is the fairest blossom, which springs from the soul—Henry Ward Beecher