Just what makes a silly old ant
Think he’ll move a rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can’t
Move a rubber tree plant
But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes
He’s got high apple pie, in the sky hopes
So any time you’re gettin’ low
‘stead of lettin’ go
Just remember that ant
Oops there goes another rubber tree plant
When troubles call, and your back’s to the wall
There a lot to be learned, that wall could fall
‘Cause he had high hopes, he had high hopes
He had high apple pie, in the sky hopes
So any time you’re feelin’ bad
‘stead of feelin’ sad
Just remember that ram
Oops there goes a billion kilowatt dam
All problems just a toy balloon
They’ll be bursted soon
They’re just bound to go pop
Oops there goes another problem kerplop
A song by Jimmy Van Heusen….a vocal attitude adjustment for us by Frank Sinatra
Oops, it’s strange how things “pop” in my mind… like this song from my childhood, ..and intriguing how things connect through synergy.
The origin of this post happened when I was sitting in bed Saturday night. Like always I checked my phone’s news app, where one preference is set for scientific research. On the screen was an article about research by Dr. Robert Emmons at the University of California (Davis). He found looking at our problems through the lens of our gratitude is healthy for us.
The article said: “The psychological benefits include less stress, higher levels of joy, pleasure, optimism and hope. Physical benefits include improved immune system and blood pressure, decreased aches and pains, and better sleeping patterns.” Remember the line from another song, “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep…” Emmons found counting blessings did help sleep…and a lot more!.
This is not a suggestion to “Don’t worry, be happy,” ignore your problems and don’t deal with your losses. That is a philosophy Emmons calls “superficial happyology.”
Rather he tells us to look at what has hurt us and ask ourselves, “What have I learned from or gained by my experience? Is anything better in my life because I went through this? How did what happened help me become who I am today? What did this teach me about what is most important in life?”
We know we all live through bad events. This research tells us the ultimate question for our mental, emotional, and physical health is what we do when bad things happen.
My mother, that great philosopher of Polish wisdom, used to admonish, “We need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.” Like most mothers, she was right. We do need to cultivate gratitude…we need to choose to focus on positive answers to those questions. My mother believed…right again…that the more often we make that choice the easier it becomes. I learned early on in life, gratitude is not only an attitude, but a habit.
But is this realistic? Isn’t it asking a lot to ask people in the middle of a crisis to be grateful for it? Emmon’s answer to that is, “In fact, it is precisely under crisis conditions when we have the most to gain by a grateful perspective on life. In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope.” In other words, gratitude is the best way to cope with hard times.
Dr. Emmon’s research also implies negative thinking makes bad situations worse. Ok, research intrigues me, and I found another study confirming this. A University of Connecticut study found people who were grateful for their first heart attack, as a blessing in disguise giving them a better appreciation for life, were much less likely to have a second heart attack than those who only focused on the negativity of the event.
I have always admired Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and love this quote which seems to fit here, “Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into tranquil joy.” (When theologians mention joy, it’s time to pay attention!) For many of the victims of trauma with whom I worked, their memories created pangs, spasms of pain, shooting from the past into the present. Helping them to create perspective, rethink those events, find learnings in them, and make positive choices because of them, gave them the ability to put the pain back into the past and find hope, gratitude, and even joy in the now.
Ok…so here’s where the synergy kicks in…and you get to decide if it makes sense. As I lay in bed thinking about responding to problems with gratitude and joy, the song above, High Hopes, popped into my brain, along with the vivid memory of watching a group of kids singing it with Frank Sinatra. (I actually found a YouTube link to this memory: Frank Sinatra High Hopes Click if you’d like to hear it.)
Why High Hopes? What were the synapses in my brain trying to tell me? I think it was that gratitude “when we’re feeling bad” means never giving up on ourselves or on life, that gratitude and high hopes are connected. High hopes are the beliefs that don’t let us down in the face of bad times or hard tasks. Even when we feel as small as ants, even when it seems like we have no ability to prevail, if we hold on to hope, we can. We know this when we recognize and are grateful for the gifts, the successes, life has brought in the past…even in our darkest times.
I don’t know what rubber trees lie ahead to get in my way…or yours. I don’t know what problems will create a dam to block you or me from the river of joy meant to flow through our lives. I do know I plan to be an Ant with attitude, an attitude of high hopes and gratitude. And I will prevail. How about you?