Cultivating Gratitude

The Write Mind: Sustaining a Creative Life

by Dr. Diane Rogers

This November, American minds will be focused largely on two things: the presidential election and Thanksgiving. Yet in the month our heritage calls us to gratitude, a tumultuous political campaign has left many in a state of anxiety as they question the future of the country and the world.

Are we doomed to go through the motions of counting our blessings around the traditional Thanksgiving table this year, or is it possible to cultivate genuine gratitude in times of uncertainty?

GratitudeAccording to mindfulness expert, Dr. Rick Hanson, gratitude is the antidote to fear and anxiety. He says, “What you rest your attention upon is what will shape your brain the most. That’s because “neurons that fire together, wire together.”

But gratitude isn’t just maintaining a positive outlook. Gratitude requires the deliberate act of internalizing positive experiences by being open to, noticing, taking in, absorbing, and attending to “the good,” as Hanson calls it. A positive focus steers our “attention away from resentment, regret, and guilt,” negative neural pathways that lead mental and physical health problems. Positive emotions, on the other hand, enhance our creative problem solving capability and promote feelings of wellbeing allowing optimism to flow.

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is, in itself, an act of creativity. Mind-Body-Spirit guru Deepak Chopra suggests, “The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety.”

As creative people know uncertainty is the wellspring of imagination, I asked O.C. Writers to weigh in on some of the ways creativity fills their emotional cups and the enhances their lives.

A Sense of Connection

For author, blogger, and artisan jeweler Wendy Van Camp, who writes science fiction, fantasy, and poetry, creativity offers a holistic sense of connection. Van Camp says she “collects fountain pens, inks, and notebooks like other women collect shoes,” but collecting community is what she values most. Van Camp says writing is what allows her “to connect with people that I would not by any other means. It is a juxtaposition of intimate personal ideas with public performance. The introvert connects with the extrovert.”

In addition to “the gift of being paid,” columnist Gayle Carline says writing has given her the ability “to touch people in ways that the introvert in me could not possibly do. I wrote a blog post about a dear friend who had passed away, and her family used my words at her memorial service. It meant so much to me, to know I had ‘gotten it right.’”

Director of O.C. Writers and author of the Amazon Kindle bestseller The Wine and Chocolate Workout, Greta Boris says the “connection to a community of over 700 published and aspiring authors in Orange County” is one of “so many” blessings that writing brings to her life. The first two of her “domestic suspense” series based on the 7 Deadly Sins are scheduled for publication in 2017 by Fawkes Press.

As an established writer who has published articles on culture, health and entertainment for a variety of national magazines, Boris says she feels grateful that “writing has made me a quieter, more thoughtful person.” Writing offers a means of self-reflection, she says. “I really don’t know what I think about things until I write them or say them.”

Inspiration and Openness

Josphine Gow, who writes under the name of J. J. Gow, is a biochemist and children’s author. Her published work appears in scientific journals, Yahoo, LitCentralOC, CBW-LA’s anthologies and collaborative novels. Gow agrees with fellow writers about the blessing of community that writing offers. She values friendship with other writers as well as the opportunity to be inspired by hearing her favorite authors speak. Gow says she is also grateful that her creativity has also made her “open minded.” She now reads a greater variety books, not just those in her favorite genres.

Inspiring Others

Southern California native, J.M. Ames, says writing allows him inspire and entertain others. “I’ve always been a storyteller, looking to entertain others with the fruits of my imagination.” As Ames has gotten older, however, he has also come to appreciate the therapeutic and relaxing aspects of writing. “It is not only a creative outlet but a cathartic force in my life,” Ames says. Although Ames acknowledges it “would be great” if his writing would take off and replace his “day job,” he doesn’t write solely for financial recompense. “It isn’t really why I do it,” says Ames. The money “would merely be a (significant) side benefit.”

Cultivating Gratitude

A creative practice is a means of cultivating gratitude. Like gratitude practices, the act of creative expression improves lives by adding a positive focus and allowing individuals to express their potential. Any activity that keeps us positively focused improves our overall sense of wellbeing. Or, in the words of the HeartMath Institute, “The greater your capacity for sincere appreciation, the deeper the connection to your heart, where intuition and unlimited inspiration and possibilities reside.”

O.C. Writers: What blessings does writing bring to you and your life?

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Dr. Diane Rogers, Author

Dr. Diane Rogers, Author

After retiring from a corporate career in business transformation and change management, Dr. Diane Rogers brings her expertise in social psychology to classrooms and families.

Her first picture book, Stand Tall, made its debut at the 2008 Seeds of Compassion Conference in Seattle, Washington featuring His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. A week after the book’s release, the State of Washington selected Stand Tall as an official teaching resource for compassionate education. Diane’s other published works include Emerge, A Story of Confidence, and When We All Stand Tall. To find out more, visit www.drdianerogers.com.

A self-professed global nomad, when they aren’t traveling on or jumping out of planes, Diane and her husband Kevin triangulate between Sydney, Australia, Newport Beach, and their sailboat in the Mediterranean.

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2 thoughts on “Cultivating Gratitude

  1. Thanks for nudging me back into my habitual ‘attitude of gratitude’, Diane. Have not being feeling positive lately and needed this call to action. Beautifully written, as usual.

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