The Art and the Beauty of Gratitude

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie

I love gratitude… 

The entire practice of being more thankful and appreciative for the things, events, and people in my life completely transformed my life for the better. I noticed somewhere along the way that when I was more present, and more appreciative of the good things that I had going on that even the not so good things seemed less intense, less scary, and gave me less anxiety. The word gratitude comes from the Latin words gratia and gratus. These mean grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Merriam-Webster defines gratitude as “the state of being grateful: thankfulness.” I came across another definition that I really loved from the Harvard Medical School. They said that gratitude is, “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals–whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.” I would also add to that, at least in my own gratitude practice, that I gained a deeper connection with myself. I also learned to appreciate the person that I was, my quirks and all, and it led to a deeper love of self. This is not self-fish, this is necessary for maneuvering gracefully through this world. If you don’t learn how to love yourself, the outside world can tear you apart. So, to me, gratitude is also about self-preservation. I talk more about this in my YouTube video this week and there is also a short gratitude exercise. You can find the video here: https://youtu.be/NgUz4KrlvyI

According to scientist Dr. Robert Emmons from the Greater Good Science Center from the University of California Berkeley, the feeling of gratitude involves two stages (2003):

  1. First comes the acknowledgment of goodness in one’s life. In a state of gratitude, we say yes to life. We affirm that all in all, life is good, and has elements that make worth living, and rich in texture. The acknowledgment that we have received something gratifies us, both by its presence and by the effort the giver put into choosing it.
  2. Second, gratitude is recognizing that some of the sources of this goodness lie outside the self. One can be grateful to other people, to animals, and to the world, but not to oneself. At this stage, we recognize the goodness in our lives and who to thank for it, ie., who made sacrifices so that we could be happy?

We might be tempted to think that gratitude then is some new age concept, but really it is at the basis of numerous religions, spiritual practices, and philosophies. The concept of gratitude is not new. As an example, the ancient philosophers Seneca and Cicero both made comments on gratitude. In Letters from a Stoic, Seneca said,

“We should try by all means to be as grateful as possible. For gratitude is a good thing for ourselves, in a sense in which justice, that is commonly supposed to concern other persons, is not; gratitude returns in large measure unto itself. There is not a man who, when he has benefited his neighbour, has not benefited himself, — I do not mean for the reason that he whom you have aided will desire to aid you, or that he whom you have defended will desire to protect you, or that an example of good conduct returns in a circle to benefit the doer, just as examples of bad conduct recoil upon their authors, and as men find no pity if they suffer wrongs which they themselves have demonstrated the possibility of committing; but that the reward for all the virtues lies in the virtues themselves. For they are not practised with a view to recompense; the wages of a good deed is to have done it. I am grateful, not in order that my neighbour, provoked by the earlier act of kindness, may be more ready to benefit me, but simply in order that I may perform a most pleasant and beautiful act; I feel grateful, not because it profits me, but because it pleases me.”

Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” To take it to a more modern place, the former writer and amazing human being, Dr. Maya Angelou said, “I work very hard, and I play very hard. I’m grateful for life. And I live it – I believe life loves the liver of it. I live it.” I believe this too! I believe that when life sees you loving to live it, it will give you more reasons to keep doing just that!

It has also been scientifically proven that gratitude improves self-esteem, improves sleep and neurological functions, lowers stress, increases immune functions, leads to a more positive attitude, makes our relationships better by enhancing our empathy and reducing negative emotions, enables us to live a happier life, and really just leads to a better overall quality of life. So why would we be hesitant to this? Everything that we do is a choice—and that includes the decision to be hopeful, to be grateful, and to view this world from a place of love. That can be hard and for many people; the default is to despair, to thinking things can never work out, and to be reactive to life. I do believe that practicing gratitude helps us to be proactive and to grab life by the horns and say, “this is how I want things to be.” So how can you incorporate more gratitude in your life?

Celestial Goodness’s Tips for increasing Gratitude in your life:

1)     Say “thank you” more. Not just when someone does something good for you, but also when its just you around and you feel thankful for something—whether it is a delicious meal, or you feel relieved at how something unfolded. Maybe you paid off your student loans—congratulations! Or maybe you finished a huge project and just feel the relief of that. You can also incorporate “thank you” as a replacement for “sorry.” Maybe you were late to something. Instead of saying, “sorry that I am late,” try, “thank you for waiting for me and extending your time.” 

2)     Send a “gratitude letter” to someone that you want to thank for something. Letter writing is not a lost art, and it is so meaningful to so many people to get real mail! I had a pretty good pen-pal streak with my friend Valerie, and whenever I get real mail from any of my friends, it really makes me feel a burst of joy! 

3)     Write down a list of things that you are grateful for and that you appreciate about your life right now. Take a look at it often and be reminded of the wonderful things that you do have to feel good about!

4)     Do a random act of kindness. There is no shortage of ways that you can infuse kindness into this world. You don’t have to be Oprah to do something good. 

5)     Do a gratitude journal or a gratitude jar. Create a journal or decorate a jar that you write down things you have to be thankful for. Going back to read these can be a real treat. If you are kind of lazy about journaling like me, there are some great free digital journal apps that make things easy! 

6)     Read books on gratitude or other feel good topics. We absorb a lot of information from the world at large. Be a gatekeeper of what goes into your mind. Balance some of the heavy world news with stories that uplift the soul. 

7)     Make a feel good stone. I love crystals as many people know. I have a special one that I wrote love on one side and gratitude on the other. When I need a reminder about this, I might hold it in my hand to feel a burst of these emotions. 

8)     Talk about it. Talk about the things that you are grateful for with your friends and family and encourage them to do the same. Hold space for their joy. 

9)     Give to a charity. You don’t have to be Oprah to do good. Even $10 can go a long way in helping!

10) Give compliments. I love to give people compliments and to see their eyes light up. I think we should hear the good things!

I hope that the next week is a wonderful one for you; I hope that you are able to practice more gratitude and more love. May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may things unfold in the most beautiful of ways.

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