At IOY/OBX last fall, Kristi and Carey turned a bunch of us onto Heather Land’s I Ain’t Doin It videos which, to Land’s surprise, went viral and launched a standup comedy career. One of my favorites is Prayer Chain, where she says she’d rather slide down a razor blade into a pool of alcohol than get put into another prayer chain. I’m not quite there, but I confess I’ve also never been a fan of chain letters, prayer chains, or “share if you agree” Facebook posts. (I don’t know, maybe it’s because I don’t like being told what to do…)
Studies have shown that gratitude is one of the most potent psychological contributors to happiness. Rita Watson talks about gratitude as both acknowledging good and bad things that happen―being mindful of present benefits―and recognizing that the sources of goodness are outside us.
Pollay takes Watson’s two-fold acknowledgement further by outlining specific practices that help us “understand the chain.” He says that if we understand the chain that contributes to the people and things we care about, we can increase our gratitude. For example, a dairy farmer knows the chain of events that led to that bowl of ice cream sitting on his table; a singer/songwriter understands the effort it took to publish that song she’s listening to on the radio. Even if the ice cream isn’t the best we’ve ever had or the song isn’t in our favorite genre, the more we know about the people and things that impact our lives, the more likely we’ll feel grateful.
MJ sometimes sends me her CaringBridge posts before she publishes, knowing that I’m a bit of a grammar nerd and she’s more of a writes-as-she-talks writer. I was writing this newsletter when she sent me her draft, and right away I put gratitude chain building into practice. I thought about the circumstances that led to our friendship, our amazing tribe of friends and colleagues old & new, and how her approach to cancer has inspired me and so many others. I felt grateful for all of it.
What about you? Do you know what went into the can of beans you just opened? How much do you understand about the work your spouse or other family member does? What chain of events might have prompted your friend to email you that chain letter?