Finding Gratitude in the Big and Small
Article contributed by guest author, Barb Schroeder, Creative Renewal presenter.
Dr. Robert Emmons, psychology professor at UC Davis, is considered a scientific expert on gratitude, and he defines gratitude as having two features:
- An affirmation of goodness, recognizing that although we have difficulties in our lives, gratitude reveals the abundance of goodness we have, too.
- Recognizing that this goodness, blessings both big and small, has been given to us without us earning them.
What exactly is Gratitude? It is wonder, appreciation, looking on the bright side, thanking someone, being aware of abundance, thanking a higher being, counting your blessings, savoring (not rushing forward) and not taking things for granted.
There are some clear benefits to being grateful:
- Gratitude helps us to celebrate the present. It magnifies our positive emotions and keeps them from "wearing off" too quickly. When we take time to appreciate something or someone, we won't take them for granted. We celebrate their goodness instead of adapting to it.
- Gratitude blocks negative emotions that undermine our happiness. Several recent studies show that gratitude can even be effective in treating depression.
- Gratitude makes us more resistant to stress. Research concludes that if we have a grateful outlook, we'll recover more quickly from difficult life events and help guard against anxiety.
- Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. They notice and thank all of the people in their lives that are looking out for them, who have helped them get to where they are today. And that makes us feel loved and good about ourselves.
Dr. Emmons recommends a few practices to bring more gratefulness into our lives.
- Keep a Gratitude journal. Recall all of the gifts that have come your way. It's fun to read it later, too, and savor those moments once again.
- Seek out prayers of Gratitude. They are powerful sources of inspiration.
- Use your senses - touch, see, smell, taste, and hear - to appreciate the miracle it is to be alive.
- Set up visual reminders. I place rocks and stones from our travels in every room to remind myself to be grateful.
- Smile, say thank you, and write letters of gratitude.
So as we begin today; perhaps we can try one or more of these practices, "experiencing each day as a sacred gift, woven around a heart of wonder...awakening to the mystery of being here."
Breathnach, SB (2009), The Simple Abundance Daybook of Comfort and Joy. Grand Central Publishing.
Emmons, RA (2013). Gratitude Works: a 21 day program for creating emotional prosperity. Jossey-Bass Publishing
Kernion, AK (2016), A Year of Spiritual Companionship: 52 weeks for a life of gratitude, balance and Happiness. Skylight Paths Publishing.
Ryan, MJ (2011), Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy every day of your life. Red Wheel/Weiser Publishing.
Sood, A (2013), The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living. Da Capo Lifelong Books.
Sood, A (2015), The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness. Da Capo Lifelong Books.
“If the only prayer you said was thank you that would be enough.” ― Meister Eckhart
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” ― William Arthur Ward