Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Telling Life: Gratitude

It's almost Thanksgiving, which means the media is full of three kinds of stories; 1) How to cook the perfect meal; 2) Don't forget, there are hungry people in the world; and 3) We should all practice gratitude all the time.

I've been keeping a gratitude journal on and off for years. I blog about gratitude each year on my birthday. Gratitude is one of the things that has helped me the most as I learn to live again after Kevin's death. It's something we should do every day, not just on Thanksgiving but most of us don't because the world is a distracting place.

Recent studies have demonstrated that a gratitude practice can have a measurably positive effect on our lives. This can be as simple as remembering to say "thank you" more often or as ritualized as a gratitude journal. Whatever works for you.

Sure, but what does this have to with storytelling?


When we remember to be grateful for those who want to hear us, for those who help us develop new work, for the vast array of stories available to us and for the community many of us have found through storytelling, we remember that we are so fortunate to practice this art. We have everything to be grateful for.

This article recently published in Psychology Today lists seven scientifically proven ways our lives are better when we practice gratitude. Take a look at and then read some thoughts about how this applies to storytelling.
  1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.  Storytelling is all about relationships. When we are grateful for those relationships and express that gratitude we are more likely to be remembered and invited back. When I let my audiences know I am grateful for their time, when I thank those who hire me, I am letting them know that they are just as valued as anyone else. We all need to hear that from time to time. 
  2. Gratitude improves physical health. My body is my instrument. When I am grateful for it I take better care of it. And if gratitude will help my body endure all I put it through (this traveling life takes a toll) then I will be grateful for it every day!
  3. Gratitude improves psychological health.  When we are grateful we are less likely to hold onto toxic emotions. What I am feeling is reflected in my performance, no matter how practiced I am. If I take the stage with gratitude I am less likely to remain annoyed at the promoter who mis-spelling my name or any of the other myriad annoyances. 
  4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.  Storytelling is all about building empathy. Our brains are more likely to respond empathetically when we hear a story. If gratitude will help me feel more empathy then I'm all for it. 
  5. Grateful people sleep better.  Studies suggest writing in a gratitude journal before going to sleep can improve sleep. As storytellers we need to be rejuvenated and sleep helps. 
  6. Gratitude improves self-esteem.  Who doesn't need a little help here now and again? We are more likely to stop comparing ourselves to others when we feel grateful for them.
  7. Gratitude increases mental strength. And we all need strength. Performing can be exhausting. 
With all of that said, please know I am grateful for you. I am grateful for your presence in the world, for reading this blog and for your stories, whatever they may be.

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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