Many years ago, Dr. A. J. Cronin occasionally prescribed an unusual treatment for some of his patients who were feeling “blue,” “down,” or generally blah. He would insist that for six weeks the patient say, “Thank you” for every kindness and keep a record of it.
According to Dr. Cronin, he had a remarkable cure rate.
If you find yourself depressed, please consult your medical doctor. But everyone gets down at times, and sharpening your sense of gratitude can make an important difference in the way you feel. I have observed again and again that people’s day-to-day happiness is not usually found in getting what they want; it comes from appreciating what they have, no matter how little.
Writer Arthur Gordon* used to tell about asking a physician friend of his for the name of the most effective prescription he knew.
“Well, I’ll tell you,” his friend said. “A colleague of mine once had a woman patient who suffered from depression. Got to the point where she stayed at home all the time, listless, apathetic, indifferent to just about everything. The usual medications didn’t seem to help.”
One day this doctor delivered a small pack-age to the woman’s home. “I want you to take what’s in this package,” he said, “and spend ten minutes of every day looking through it at some object in this room.”
In the package there was a strong magnifying glass. The woman faithfully took the prescription. She began looking through the lens at the warp and woof of the fabric on her sofa. She was amazed at what she saw. Then she examined the veins in a flower plucked from her garden, the color dots in an old photograph, and even the texture of her own skin. In days before close-up photography, she’d never seen the likes of it before. She was amazed and astounded at the brand new world opening up before her eyes.
Perhaps the doctor knew what Abraham Heschel put so well: “The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living.” As this woman gazed at her world through a magnifying lens, she saw, in a completely different way, what had been around her all along.
Her sense of wonder gave way to another, more powerful emotion. The physician said that her experience with the lens, more than anything else, was the turning point of her illness. She began to get well because this unusual prescription had aroused within her the most curative of all emotions – gratitude.
Do you practice gratitude? I think you’ll discover that it is no less than a powerful prescription for peace.
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