by Tim Burnett
What are you grateful for?
This is a really valuable question to ask yourself. In fact, take a moment now to consider this if you would. You might even get out a piece of paper and write down a few things you feel grateful for.
Gratitude helps to counteract a tendency of mind called "habituation" – the taking for granted the many things that allow us to live and thrive. The mind, with it's negativity bias, preferentially focuses on the problems and hassles of life and misses the incredible supports we experience every day, such as the very air we breathe and the water we drink. You might take a moment and add to your list any people who've taught you, coached you, and supported you over the years. Would you be where you are now without their support?
Emotion researchers consistently find that practicing gratitude consistently leads to positive outcomes. According to researcher Robert Emmons practicing gratitude leads to:
- Benefits to our mood and energy: we feel more alert, energetic and enthused by life,
- Benefits to how we feel physically: this includes feeling better about our bodies and also being more motivated to exercise which has additional benefits,
- Benefits to our sleep: we sleep longer and awake feeling more refreshed, and
- Benefits to our relationships and sense of connection to others: we feel more affirmed by others and more appreciative of the positive roles they play in our lives leading us to feel less isolated and lonely.
A more philosophical point about gratitude
When we focus on what we're grateful for, as helpful as that is, we’re often operating in a mode of separation: of me over here grateful for that helpful something over there. To counteract this, I love the way gratitude advocate Brother David Steindl-Rast describes the more general and inclusive state of "gratefulness."
He suggests that this fundamental attitude of gratefulness can permeate our whole lives, whether we're at this moment feeling like we're getting the support we need or not. Perhaps one way to combine "I'm grateful for" with "I'm practicing gratefulness" is to contemplate our gratitude for simply being alive. For being. For this life with all of its twists and turns and challenges and joys. From mindfulness, we know that it is all we have! Even when things are difficult, perhaps gratefulness is more available than we think.
And then please consider what do you feel grateful for? Right now. As Br. David suggests may we all, "let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you." Because, "then it will really be a good day."
Wishing us all gratefulness,
Here are some gratitude resources:
I love watching this lovely invocation of gratefulness with Brother David's narration and the images and artistry of filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg:
Five minutes well worth spending.
You can watch a section of a talk by Dr. Emmons describing his research here
and this article by the same group, the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at UC Berkeley, is a nice encouragement to practice gratitude with a few practice suggestions:
Recently the GGSC even created an online tool for practicing gratitude that sends you text reminders to notice what you feel grateful for.
I've signed up for it and I'm curious to see how I'll feel if I can stick with it through their 10 Day Gratitude Challenge.