"If the only prayer you ever say in your life is ‘thank you’, that will be enough" Meister Eckhart
The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, in collaboration with the University of California, Davis, is in the midst of a multi-year, scientific project called, Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis is spearheading the work, financed with a $5.6 million grant from the Templeton Foundation. To uncover the far reaching power of gratitude, they continue to draw conclusions from a range of research studies, awarding grants to participating scholars around the world.
Dr. Emmons has been researching and writing about gratitude for many years. In his first book, “Thanks, How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier,” Robert Emmons concluded, “Gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms. People are moved, opened and humbled through expressions of gratitude.”
From the great Sufi poet, Rumi, “You are running around so much looking for happiness, happiness isn’t able to find you.” Thus the title of Dr. Emmons’ book. If you have been thinking that your life is empty, non-fulfilling or feel as if others have more than you, your key is gratitude. Whatever you focus on grows more powerful. Therefore if you focus on what you don’t have, that feeling and that lifestyle will grow in power.
Many people are not aware of what we may call a gift or a miracle in their life, unless it’s a huge thing that hits them in the face. The key to learning to be grateful is to look for the little things each day that contribute to your well-being.
If you can’t think of anything to be grateful for, it’s time to grab a pen and paper, or create a file on your computer called “Things I’m grateful for.” Choose one thing in your life you can be grateful for. Write it down, then think of another, and another and another.
Always look for the good: Health, children, plants outside your door, employment, enough food to eat, friends, family…..As soon as you begin to focus on things to be grateful for, the list will grow. And little gifts will pop up in your mind to add to your gratitude list. You may have to think a few minutes for the first item, but with habit, your list will begin to include not only the huge miracles, but things or people or situations you may have taken for granted. Where before you might have felt grateful for a new car, you may be grateful for a bed to sleep in, a house to live in, or clean water to drink.
"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful." Buddha
Negativity, as well a gratitude are habits, usually cultivated over long periods of time. Overnight changes don’t happen. Be patient with yourself and take these easy steps toward a more grateful life.
- Begin your “I am grateful for…” journal
- Keep your eyes and ears open for things to be grateful for and signs you may be slipping back into old thinking habits.
- Repeat the statement, “Today I am very grateful”, as soon as you wake up, before you fall asleep and several more times during the day.
Feeling unfulfilled in your life is just one path that leads to stress. And that kind of stress doesn’t dissipate until the underlying feelings change. You can try deep breathing and meditation, but if you finish your practice, walk out of the room and think, “When is my life going to improve?” you have opened the door for stress to come back into your mind and body.
While you are changing your life to include minute by minute gratitude practice, the WellBe can be a great tool to help you cope with that stress. Although not the long-term, over-reaching solution, it may assist you in the process. Use whatever tools you can to maintain calmness and gratitude. At the same time, develop your gratitude muscle and watch how many unseen before miracles appear each and every day.
Dr. Marcia J. Hootman