So what is Gratitude?
Gratitude has been found to dramatically affect individual and group performance.
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” – Cicero
Research had three groups of students keep journals, one group focusing on gratitude, the other on events and incidents that were frustrating and the third group writing down neutral events.
The gratitude journaling group compared to the others experienced:
- fewer physical symptoms such as headaches and colds
- feeling better about their lives
- engaging more in helping behaviour in others
- more optimism about the following week
- higher states of alertness, attentiveness, determination and energy
- fewer hassles in their lives
- feeling more connected to others
- better sleep quality
- fewer days off and to top it off their grades improved (Source: Positive Leadership Kim Cameron)
So what is Gratitude?
A Chinese proverb beautifully describes gratitude this way; “When you drink from a stream, remember the spring.‘
There are at least two parts to gratitude. One is the cultivated attitude, focusing on life’s blessings rather than on the negatives. The other arises spontaneously in the moment, an appreciation of nature, humanity at its best, music, art, doing what we love or just realising how good life feels.
Gratitude is known to be a supporting attitude for a good life. The more gratitude we experience, the more reasons we have to be grateful. A Nigerian proverb says: “Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot”. Gratitude then becomes more than an attitude, it becomes a stance, a receptive state allowing the flow of good or blessings.
Expectations, the thought that I deserve something, and pride are obstacles to experiencing gratitude. Reward does not always follow input. Think of child labourers or people in the world who work very hard every day and are only paid just enough to survive, if that. Expect nothing, think: I deserve nothing, not because I am not worthy, but because there isn’t always a predictable relationship between input and reward.
Nothing causes content but gratitude
Our mind will always tell us that we want more and so happiness will not alone be found in achieving our goals or in material possessions. Our expectations simply grow with our income and buying power which negates our ability to appreciate.
“Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend…. When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present – love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that brings us pleasure – the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience Heaven on Earth.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach
How do we integrate the state of gratitude into our lives?
Our minds keep getting caught up in ‘issues’ or problems or bothersome little things. One gateway to experiencing more gratitude is Mindfulness. When cultivating Mindfulness we increase the ability to choose our thoughts, we increase interior freedom, enabling us to choose gratitude.
Other ways could be:
- Identifying non grateful thoughts, formulate gratitude supporting thoughts, substitute grateful thoughts from non grateful ones and finally translate these new feelings to action!
- Incorporate 10 minutes a day focusing on what you are grateful for, you might journal this, starting a gratitude journal.
- You may ask yourself questions during meditation or for the journal:
- What have I received from ______________ ?
- What have I given to __________________ ?
- What troubles and difficulty have I caused _____________ ? It is considered that we need to acknowledge how we cause pain in the lives of others to appreciate the grace by which we live.
- Learn prayers of Gratitude. Use visual reminders of gratitude, all around you, in your car, work areas, bathroom, dining room etc.
- Be mindful of your language, it is a reflection of your thoughts, watch for complaining habits, expecting things, general discontent, negative mindsets etc.
- Notice the little things; appreciate and be grateful:
- the taste of good food:
- the attention from a pet
- the connection with another person
- scent of a flower
- ability to buy gifts
- your body feeling healthy
- the morning sunlight
- a call from a friend
- sitting for a moment without agenda nor demands
Experiencing gratitude could be a New Year resolution. Commit to how you will do it, use December to warm up, get into the habit of appreciating life, what you have and what you experience.
If you want more support around it, our Mindful Me program will be running during the first term in February 09, we would love to have you join us.
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you,’ it will be enough.” – Meister Tolle