The Practice of Gratitude

I’m a believer in the importance of counting our many blessings, and I try to count mine, in solitude. I also try to notice things each day which are ordinary little miracles: perhaps the creaminess of a perfect avocado or the impish sight of a tiny Mexican folk art turtle wagging its springy head in my fruit bowl, a gift from dear friends.

So I was delighted when I heard a discussion about the “Science of Gratitude” on the National Public Radio show Humankind on December 16th.

On the show, guests Catherine Price, a freelance writer, and Prof. Robert Emmons, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology, talk about gratitude and its influences on physical health and emotional well-being. They say that recent research shows that people who are grateful actually feel less pain, and those who cultivate thankfulness experience more happiness. Exercises such as keeping a gratitude journal, writing a letter of thanks, and savoring small beauties and pleasures change our outlook.

Some friends of mine already knew all this.

Anyone who knows my friend Nancy also knows her beautiful, sincere smile. She says she’s been keeping a thankfulness journal for many years, and it began with the gift of a book called The Gratitude Journal:

“ . . . with a place to write 5 things you’re grateful for each day…..
I filled it in that year, and then have continued with that theme ever
since. Now I just use a notebook, or nice blank journal, and I have no
‘rules’ – some days I’m thankful for 5 things, some days a lot more. I
do it each morning, with my coffee.”

Coleen Grissom is a lively university professor and septuagenarian, possessing a keen intellect and delightful wit. She’s no Pollyanna; she’s talented with words and uses them well against injustices and foibles she notes in our world. One reviewer of her collection of speeches calls her a “kick-butt woman”. She writes in her journal each night before bedtime and–last thing before she falls asleep–lists the happiest times of that day.

Susan J. Tweit, author, biologist, and physical embodiment of the meaning of optimism, begins her day by writing a haiku, then posting it and an accompanying photograph on her facebook page. She thus brightens the day for many (many!) people by sharing her ability to honor small moments.

I certainly realize not all is within our control. Each of us–no exceptions–deals with adversity, pain, disappointment. Evidently, though, each day, by practicing gratitude, we can choose–to some extent–whether to be happy.

 

 

You can find more information about Humankind at http://www.humanmedia.org.

You can order Nancy’s homemade Columbia Gorge Fudge Sauce–a miracle in a jar and one of life’s exquisite little pleasures–by visiting http://www.hoodrivergifthouse.com/Chocolate.HTML.

You can read Susan’s haikus and see her lovely photographs at http://www.facebook.com/susanjtweit and visit her eloquent blog at http://susanjtweit.com/ .

You can read about Coleen’s book at http://tupress.org/authors/coleen-grissom .

Writing Practice:

Do you think happiness is a choice?

What exercises would you recommend to increase our physical and mental well-being?

And, of course: what things, especially small, everyday things, call you to give thanks today?

11 thoughts on “The Practice of Gratitude

  1. What a thoughtful and timely look at a habit worth cultivating! It takes only a few minutes to think of something to be grateful for in our days, and even in the darkest times–especially in the darkest times–that bit of gratefulness can bring a welcome ray of light. And thank you for that lovely mention of my work, Chris.

  2. This was a timely post for me because one of my goals for this year is to keep a gratitude journal in addition to my regular journal. You mentioned a book in your post. Do you know who the author of that particular gratitude journal is? Thank you,

    • Thank you, Donna, for reading and commenting. I asked Nancy about this and she doesn’t recall the specific author; it’s been a number of years since she began this practice. She describes it as a journal format with space for five items each day, and she says there are several ones out there. I’m sure you’ll find just the right one that speaks to you.

  3. Thanks Chris! It is amazing what happens when you are actively grateful. On the worst day, if we just stop and be thankful (out loud or in writing), little miracles start to roll in! Also, thanks for the writing prompts. 🙂

    • I like your term “actively grateful.” I believe thankfulness does help re-frame the way we see our lives. Hugs to you, Kristin, and I’m glad you like the writing practice section.

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