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Understanding scarcity and gratitude


Do you ever have thoughts of scarcity? Examples include: Not enough time. Not enough money. Not enough happiness. Not enough (insert personal example here).

Some mornings I wake up with these thoughts. Some evenings I lie awake in bed with them. Is this stressful? My experience is, yes, thoughts of scarcity, along with its related emotions of fear and dread, are stressful.

So like most people, I search out ways to relieve this stress, and in this search I have tried many different ways to relieve perceptions of scarcity.

One of the most logical ways to relieve perceptions of scarcity is to try to somehow “get more” of what is scarce. Work more, look for better relationships, buy nicer clothes, (insert personal example here).

All of these strategies are normal and totally acceptable ways of being in the world. That is not an issue here. The question is: Do these strategies actually relieve scarcity-stress? And if so, for how long?

You may have different answers to these questions than I do, but I have found that no matter how hard I work, no matter how many university degrees I have, or what amount of savings I have in the bank, perceptions of scarcity continue to linger and oppress.

This has been disappointing, to say the least. But over time, the fairly consistent failure of these strategies to relieve scarcity-stress has revealed a cluster of less intuitive (and less time-consuming) options. One of these options is gratitude — actively and intentionally acknowledging what I do have and cultivating feelings of gratitude for these things.

Science happens to be on my side with this finding. Emerging research suggests that choosing and cultivating gratitude as an internal response can be a helpful adjunct to many of the other ways we search for happiness and a sense of “enough.”

“Thanks!: How the new science of gratitude can make you happier” by Richard Emmons is one of many books on gratitude available at CDPL. And Emmons’ research points to the importance of cultivating gratitude intentionally, as a way to improve our happiness, even when things are not exactly as we want them to be.

This may sound like common sense, but gratitude is not necessarily a reflex reaction to scarcity-stress and may need to be “practiced” and strengthened to become readily available and supportive when we need it.

At 7 p.m. Nov. 20, CDPL is sponsoring the free program, “Mindful Living: Gratitude,” which will offer tips and strategies for strengthening the gratitude habit. Julianne, “J” Miranda will be facilitating this inspiring, interactive program as part of a CDPL Mindful Living series extending through December. Online registration is now open for the November program.

We hope you’ll take advantage of these programs and all the other gratitude-inspiring resources available here at CDPL. After all, lying awake in bed is not the time for “getting more” of anything, except rest. So if developing happiness strategies for those quieter times sounds like something worth exploring, we hope to support you in that new search.


Deanna Burkett, a reference and local history assistant at the Crawfordsville District Public Library, contributed this week’s Preview Shelf column.


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