True thankfulness (aka gratitude or gratefulness) is more than an annual holiday. It’s also more than a sentiment on a card. Yes, there is power in expressing our thankfulness around the turkey table or via Hallmark, but the real impact according to Brother David Steindl-Rast, is how we experience gratitude in our daily lives. According to this Benedictine Monk, author, poet and teacher, living up to and beyond our fullest potential, fully expressing our unique gifts in the world is the ultimate way to demonstrate how grateful we are for our lives (Steindl-Rast, 2012). This expression of gratitude can even lead to physiological changes in our brains (Emmons, 2003) and ultimately to better regulation of our emotions and greater wellbeing. So in the act of being grateful, we sow the seeds for better connections to the earth, to one another, to ourselves, and can demonstrably alter our brain chemistry for the better.
This has led me to reconsider how and how often I express gratitude. There are many forms, including prayer, meditation, mantra, volunteer efforts serving others, and more. I choose to make daily manifestations of my gratitude. I offer thanks for the people, places, experiences, and opportunities for growth in my life. I find this leads to a greater sense of peace, of increased appreciation for all that I do have, and less focus on what I’m lacking. I’ve seen this expressed through Gratitude Journals or rituals and ceremonies celebrating thankfulness. Whether it’s formal or otherwise, it seems like one easy and consistent thing we can do to help us feel better and perhaps lead more full and satisfying lives.
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389.
Steindl-Rast, David. Session Six – As Kingfishers Catch Fire - Gratefulness.org. (2012). Retrieved June 20, 2016, from http://www.gratefulness.org/dw-ecourse-session-6/
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