Traditionally, “gratitude” is a sense, or feeling, of thankfulness in response to receiving a tangible gift or abstract gesture of kindness.
Another view is that gratitude is a conscious choice to focus on life’s blessings rather than on its shortcomings. In this understanding, the practice of gratitude is a way of life. Every moment is filled with opportunities to fill our consciousness with feelings of gratefulness, thankfulness and appreciation. From the littlest flower we see in the garden to the traffic jam on the way to work, we can choose to be grateful.
In the relatively new field of “positive psychology,” researchers are studying the science of thankfulness. In The Psychology of Gratitude, Dr. Michael McCullough of the University of Miami and Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis, show how participating in regular, deliberate appreciation improves almost everything. By having their research participants keep weekly or daily gratitude journals and practicing self-guided exercises, the researchers discovered their participants slept better, exercised more, increased positive emotions, had more rhythmic heartbeats, progressed toward personal goals more quickly, and helped others more often.
“Psychology has generally ignored the positive emotions,” says Dr. Emmons. “Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress, and to achieve a positive sense of self.”
Grateful people are not necessarily ones whom the world has showered with gifts; people of modest financial means or who have suffered personal tragedies nevertheless may report themselves as grateful, while the well-to-do and good-looking may exhibit little gratitude.
“To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great,” Emmons says. “It just means we are aware of our blessings. If you only think about your disappointments and unsatisfied wants, you may be prone to unhappiness. If you’re fully aware of your disappointments but at the same time thankful for the good that has happened and for your chance to live, you may show higher indices of well-being.”
Increase Your Gratitude
Here are simple and easy ways to increase your feelings of gratefulness.
- Create your own personal gratitude journal, a place to list your blessings on a regular basis. Each and every day record the small and large gifts that are enriching your life. It could be a sense of well-being or an exciting challenge at work; maybe it’s your children, friends, or family that grace your life.
- Use Positive Self-talk. Create internal positive mantras. Talk to yourself in a creative, optimistic and appreciative manner. Quiet the inner critic and encourage the inner uplifter!
- Create a Scrapbook. When we take photos, they are usually of happy times and smiling people. Research shows that people who spend time placing photos in a scrapbook experience increased feelings of happiness as they are surrounded in joyful memories.
- Say Thank You! As simple as it sounds, these two small words create feelings of happiness in both the giver and the receiver.
Building the Gratitude Muscle
Michael Bernard Beckwith, Spiritual Director and Founder of Agape International Spiritual Center reminds us that whatever Gratitude Practice we choose to use, anchoring a state of thankfulness, gratitude and appreciation takes PRACTICE. Once in a while doesn’t cut it. Do you want your happiness level to increase? Say Thank You more often. Do you want your happiness level to skyrocket? Practice grateful living and watch your life transform.
Waves of Gratitude
Have you noticed the waves of gratitude spreading across the globe, undetected by the mainstream press, yet felt in every grateful heart? All around the world, people are creating venues to support and reinforce each other in remembering and practicing the principles of gratitude.
Brother David Steindl-Rast, author of Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer, is a Benedictine Monk and world-renowned spiritual leader. His website attracts 25,000 visitors a day from countries across the globe, all united in the practice of grateful living.
Matthew and Terces Engelhart have opened Café Gratitude, with 4 locations throughout the Bay Area. Café Gratitude patrons come to eat a wide array of delicious living foods. An awning outside their Berkeley location in greets passers-by with the words: “What Are You Grateful For?” This question is embedded in all the café’s colorful serving dishes as well as T-shirts, caps and posters.
The Gratitude Movement is even taking to the high seas! The Ocean of Gratitude Cruise, setting sail from Ft. Lauderdale in March 2009 is an opportunity to spend 8 glorious days amidst the healing power of infinite love and gratitude. Your very own Janet Attwood, along with Michael Beckwith and other Gratitude Visionaries will accompany you on this voyage of a lifetime. A special VIP luncheon with Janet Attwood is being planned for HealthyWealthynWise attendees. Visit www.OceanofGratitudeCruise.com for details.
“When people gather together in gratitude there is an opportunity to create a ‘convergence zone,’ allowing for a quantum shift to occur,” says Karol Avalon, producer of the Ocean of Gratitude Cruise. “Connecting with others, in a spirit of love and gratitude, creates the space for miracles to occur.”
Scientist-philosopher Rupert Sheldrake, a pioneer in the field of Quantum Physics, would agree. As he put forth in his theory, “the 100th Monkey Effect”, the morphic field of phenomena (miracles) occur when enough people holding the same thought, are drawn together by a shared purpose….all at the same time.. When this alignment of intent happens, the rest of the world in varying degrees will experience an internal shift…resulting in change.
Think of it. The nerve center of the entire planet touched and enlivened by simply sharing an expression of genuine thanks. Could it really be that simple? Yes!
About the Author:
KAROL AVALON is a visionary with expertise in the inspirational travel industry. She is the Executive Producer of the Ocean of Gratitude Cruise. www.OceanofGratitudeCruise.com. MARYBETH GRANT is a Personal Life Coach, speaker and entrepreneur. She joins the Ocean of Gratitude Cruise as Co-Producer and Master of Ceremonies.
*A special message from Janet Attwood….I hope you’ll join me for a week of fun, sun and transformation this March on the next Ocean of Gratitude Cruise. My great friends, Rev. Michael Beckwith, Rikki Byars Beckwith, Dr. Sue Morter and other great transformational leaders will be there as well!
Be sure and mention Healthy Wealthy N Wise for a free gift!