Practice of the Week
"Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for." (Zig Ziglar)
"'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding." (Alice Walker)
Adapted from Rick Hanson, Just One Thing.
We experience gratitude when we are freely given something good. Therefore, looking for opportunities for gratitude -- developing an "attitude of gratitude" -- is a great way to notice and enjoy some of the gifts you've received.
Gratitude does not mean ignoring difficulties, losses, or injustice. It just means also paying attention to the offerings that have come your way. Especially the little ones of everyday life.
When you do this, you're resting your mind increasingly on good things moving toward you, on being supported, on feelings of fullness -- on the sense of having an open heart that moves toward an open hand.
Fuller and fuller, more and more fed by life instead of drained by it, you naturally feel like you have more of value inside yourself and more to offer to others.
And that is a very good thing. For example, studies by Robert Emmons and others have shown that gratitude is associated with greater well-being, better coping, and even better sleep (McCullough et al. 2001).
Prime your pump by bringing to mind someone you naturally feel grateful toward. Perhaps a friend, parent or grandparent, teacher, spiritual being, or pet.
Next, look around and notice, both here and now, and in the past:
- The gifts of the physical world, including the stars in the sky, the colors of the rainbow, and the remarkable fact that the seemingly arbitrary constants that determine how atoms stick together in our universe are just right for planets to form and life to develop -- enabling you to be here today
- The gifts of nature, like the flight of a bird, the creatures that die so we may live, and your amazing brain
- The gifts of life, including the marvelous instructions for building a human being woven into the strands of DNA
- The gifts of nurturance, helpfulness, good counsel, and love from other people
Let yourself accept these gifts. It would be rude -- ungrateful! -- to refuse them.
Remember that gratitude is not guilt or indebtedness -- both of which actually make it harder to feel grateful. You may feel moved to be generous in turn -- including in new directions, such as giving to some out of appreciation for what you have been given by others -- but it will come from large-heartedness, not because you think you owe something. Gratitude moves us away from let's-make-a-deal exchanges in relationships toward a sense of abundance, in which you feel fed beyond measure and in turn give with all your heart without keeping score.
Then recognize the benefits to you of what has been given. Reflect on how it helps you and those you care about, makes you feel good, and fuels your own generosity in turn.
And recognize the benevolence of the giver, whether it is a person, Mother Nature, or the physical universe -- or, if this is meaningful to you, something Divine. Don't minimize the benevolence to avoid feeling unworthy or indebted; open up to it as a telling of the truth, as a giving back to the giver, and as a joyful leaning toward that which is truly gift-giving in your world.
Last, soak up the gifts coming to you, whatever they are. Let them become part of you, woven into your body, brain, and being. As you inhale, as you relax, as you open, take in the good that you've been given.
* * *
Brother David Stendl-Rast's TED Talk. He says:
"It's not being happy that makes us grateful. It's being grateful that makes us happy."
See also, Arthur C. Brooks: "Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier."
* * *
Every day for seven days (or forever), start off your daily journaling by listing five things in the previous 24 hours for which you are grateful.
* * *