Ron Colone: On the subject of all those scars

RON COLONE

From the time we’re small children, they teach us to say "thank you." Usually, it’s because someone gives us something, like a gift or a treat of some sort, or because they extended some kindness toward us.

In church, they tell us it is right to give thanks and praise. Maybe that’s all the reason we should need, but in the last couple of decades, researchers have begun presenting us with a long and growing list of physical and psychological benefits associated with gratitude — everything from lowering blood pressure to improving the quality of our sleep to better decision-making, to deeper friendships and romantic relationships, to making us happier and healthier.

The interesting thing, to me, is the direction of these dynamics. The way it has traditionally been taught, and by traditional I mean in the context of home and family and children, is that the “please” part comes before and the “thank you” comes after — a thing that is given. I call it the “when/then syndrome": When I have this, then I’ll do that; when I get this, then I’ll give that; when I am this, then I’ll be that. Or in this case, when something good happens, then I’ll say "thank you."

What these studies show is that it’s a two-way street, the idea being that we can induce the myriad benefits by simply saying “thank you.” But it has to be a real “thank you;” a half-hearted, mechanical one won’t do. And it can’t just be once a year or even once a week.

Years ago, when my daughter was little and I would drive her to school, we had this ritual where as soon as we got in the truck and closed the doors, we had to tell each other what we were thankful for as we exited the long, farm driveway.

Again, this was a parent’s way of instilling in his child the importance of gratitude. Eventually, even when she wasn’t there, and for years after, as soon as my butt hit the seat, I started going through my “grateful” list, which shows the power of classical (paired) conditioning methods.

Nowadays, as I drive around, and also during my leisurely morning walks, I experience spontaneous surges of gratitude, or maybe more like invisible waves or clouds that float by and pass through me, through the space that I occupy, such that I can feel it like goosebumps on my skin. It activates my mind and heart to the process of gratitude. When this happens, and it happens frequently, I look around at my surroundings, and I feel so thankful to live in a place that is beautiful and without the trappings of war and violence. I think of my friends and family, and I feel so thankful to have them in my life; thankful for the strong connection and the deep caring, and the effort we make to be here with each other and be there for each other. I think of my health, and the health of my closest loved ones, and I feel so thankful that we have mobility, the energy and the attention to experience life’s adventures and lessons without the restraints of excessive pain, sickness and limitation. And I think of my work and my partnerships and collaborations and associations, and I feel so thankful to have a sense of purpose and meaning.

So yes, I’m in a state of gratitude much of the time, and if there are untold benefits that go along with that, then I am grateful for those, too, and can only wonder how much worse off I might be if I wasn’t party to those benefits.

And that is why I’m good with so much of the focus of Thanksgiving being on food, because without all the effort that goes into preparing the meal, it would be just another day of screaming at the woeful Lions and walking and driving around feeling so, so very thankful.

Essential Ron Colone: Start your day off with a little perspective. A collection of musings from columnist Ron Colone

It is hard to provide a short bio for Ron Colone. Writer, performer, business owner, concert promoter, music historian, baseball fan, proud son of Detroit for a start. There's so much more. We at the Santa Ynez Valley News have been lucky to work with Ron in various roles for more than 30 years, and we want to make sure you have a chance to read more of his thoughtful and insightful work. Here are a few of our favorites, let us know if you remember one that we missed and we can add it in. 

Ron Colone can be reached at ron.colone@gmail.com

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