Updated: Sep 13, 2021
It has been a core teaching in some traditions for a long time. You might have been encouraged to: 'Count your blessings'.
There is research to support that gratitude can:
· Positively affect our sleep,
· Over time a practice of gratitude has a positive effect on our mental health,
· There are indications it has an ongoing effect on how we think and process,
· Improve physical strength,
· Enhance relationships,
· Help improve our resilience,
· Aid the healing of trauma.
Now the research is mounting, showing how important this practice is important for our well-being, and SO much more.
There's even a website from a Global network for Grateful Living, drawing together so much of the current research at: https://gratefulness.org/resource/research-related-to-gratitude/
This is not the attitude denying things are hard but it is seeing even in the midst of difficulties there are things we are thankful for. It can be for something that didn't happen, eg when Max and I moved the 400kg water tank without mishap, I was very grateful!
And it isn't just big things either: I have legs that move- although with the paralympics this year, it reminds us this is actually pretty good.
But today I saw a covering of a Hibbertia vine in flower (Hibbertia dentata), that I didn't know we had on the property. I love Hibbertias. We have quite a bit of wild Hibbertia Scandens, and they are growing well thanks to lantana clearing, sun, rain and space! Plus we've planted some.
We also have quite a bit of Hibbertia, maybe 'diffusa', growing well near the wild labyrinth. Can you tell I'm a bit of a Hibbertia fan? Still today's discovery was amazing, wonder-ful!
Esther de Waal says: "When we fail to wonder we fail in gratitude" Esther De Waal, Lost in Wonder, (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2003), 146.
Start at your feet and slowly travelling up your body, name parts of your body you are grateful for: skin (ask a person who's suffered terrible burns how important our skin is?), your toes (they help you balance), your knees (after needing both knees replaced I don't take them for granted), muscles, joints, ligaments, blood vessels, etc, etc.
When you finish being grateful about your body look around and ask what am I thankful for? A home, a room, a friend, a chair to sit on, grass, air, . We can take so much for granted but they are not a given. Continue even if you don't 'feel' grateful.
1.There's a habit equation from Greg McKeown, author of 'Effortless', that is a good activity/ commitment: each time you complain, follow it with spoken gratitude for something. He didn't realise how often he complained until he started doing this.
2. Over the next week, on a piece of paper or post-it-note, write or draw one thing each day that you're thankful for. Pop it in a jar, then plan time on the weekend to go through them, remember them, revisit the sense of gratitude.
3. Repeat each week for the next 4 weeks, using the jar or putting it straight into your journal. It is okay to have more than 28 at the end of the 4 weeks, but have at least 28!
Continue this practice and it will become embedded in your life. If you don't feel grateful, don't worry, just keep it up and wait for the feelings to kick in. Choice Theory says changing our actions will affect our feelings, as they discovered in the research at Berkley, they will kick in.
About the authors:
We are both practicing artists with decades of experience in creativity. Through our interests, passions and work we also have experience in developing creative and interactive practices which feed your soul, with the aims of facilitating spiritual and personal growth. We are parents and grandparents and have both been community workers, pastors, and counsellors. We like to help people in their quest to find a greater depth, meaning, peace and enjoyment in life. We also like to facilitate opportunities to deepen people's self-awareness and sense of being by nurturing their soul, strengthening their connections with nature and the divine.
Max has training in: Choice Theory, Spiritual Direction, Labyrinth Facilitation and years in Welfare, Bronwyn has training in Choice Theory, The Enneagram, a Bachelor of Natural History Illustration and is currently a PhD candidate & in Spiritual Direction formation.