Thursday, January 12, 2012

31 Writers, 31 Lessons-Lesson 12: Harness Your Thoughts with a Mantra of Gratitude

It might just be another one of those internet myths, but I’ve read that our minds are busy with an average of 70,000 thoughts in the course of each day. Even if it’s only 1,000 thoughts, the idea made me wonder what thoughts were occupying my mental real estate.

Most of the thoughts I’m aware of entertaining are above reproach—substantial, even:

  • Will the law of gravity and the laws governing quantum particles ever be united in a single theory of the universe? (Laypeople’s astrophysics is a hobby of mine.)
  • Remember to use effective inflection on these particular words in this afternoon’s speech—and allow an extra 10 minutes commuting time.

  • I’ll take my mother-in-law thrift store shopping Thursday.

But, then there are the myriad inconsequential (okay, trifling) thoughts that overtake my mind:

  • Is that white spot on the living room rug an innocent clump of lint or a soon-to-be-smelly cream cheese stain?
  • How would I look with a silver streak in my hair?
  • I bet pork is really a red meat, despite that clever “other white meat” marketing slogan.
  • And so on.

Mulling over the muddle in my mind propelled me to search for a mantra I could repeat to slow down racing thoughts, although I wasn’t sure to what purpose. Why shouldn’t my mind fly all over the place whenever I’m not using it to focus on a critical task?

Well, a racing mind didn’t feel very good, that’s why. Something told me I’d be happier, saner, and maybe even smarter, if I applied the brakes to my thoughts. So, I adopted a one-word mantra that I repeated intermittently, mostly when I was meditating. It was so boring I don’t even remember what it was and it didn’t seem to quiet my mind.

However, an essay I’d read by the late spiritual writer Mary L. Kupferle had stuck in my mind for years. Kupferle suggested that no matter what’s going on, no matter whether things are going the way we want or not, we should repeat “Thank you.” Just that. “Thank you.” She promised that unexpected blessings would accrue to anyone who just said, “thank you” throughout the day.

Well, I’ve been using this mantra. And you know what? It works. Oh, does it work! It not only quiets my mind, making room for contemplative and productive thought; it’s also a statement of gratitude. And gratitude attracts blessings like a magnet.

This has been my secret. Even my non-judgmental husband doesn’t know I do this all day long—any time, anywhere. On nature walks, while driving, making the bed, writing my memoir, working out on the treadmill, I think: Thank you, thank you, thank you. (It’s got a nice walking rhythm to it.)

I don’t direct the words at anyone or anything. I just think them. I think them as I’m falling asleep, and especially on those rare occasions I’m having trouble falling asleep. They’re floating through my mind right now.

They’ve brought me a husband and in-laws I still appreciate and adore after 25 years. Potentially fraught situations have gone more smoothly than I had any right to expect, whether finding a parking space when I’m in a hurry; getting the new fridge and furniture through our narrow apartment doors two days before hosting a house party; receiving positive news about my relatives’ or my own health.

And this mantra has brought me unexpected honors. Who would have expected Katherine Jenkins, the author of Lessons from the Monk I Married, and publisher of her unique and valuable blog that I’ve long admired, to invite me to share my secret gratitude mantra with you?

For all these things I say, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” I urge you to try it.

Lynette Benton is the author of Polish and Publish, and a writing instructor and coach. Her memoir-in-progress is titled, My Mother’s Money. Contact her at


  1. And THANK YOU for posting Lynette! You have given me an attitude of gratitude today!

  2. Thanks so much for letting me share this mantra with your readers—and for giving us 31 writers and 31 lessons. I'm benefiting from them already!

  3. I like it. Simple, kind, easy to remember, and good for the self too. Our kids just had "thank you" day at their preschool.

  4. I really love this mantra! And I started using it right away after reading your post yesterday, Lynette! Thank YOU! :)