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Gratitude: A Path To The Heart And Happiness, Too!

Heart Of Hope

The mission of The Heart Of Awakening Blog is to support:
  • Living from the Heart
  • Embodying Awareness, Authenticity and Purpose
  • Integrating a Holistic Approach to Being
  • Embracing the Interconnectedness of All Things
  • Honoring and Respecting the Sacredness of Life

One of the best practices for opening the heart and keeping it open is the practice of Gratitude.  It is important to stress the word “practice” as it is one thing to experience a feeling of gratitude and another to actively work with it.  Over the month of December, we will be exploring a variety of ways to practice Gratitude in daily life.

When we speak about practice, whether it be exercise, meditation or gratitude practice, we know there can be many obstacles to developing a new practice or sustaining an ongoing one.  You may even ask “why should I practice gratitude?”  Aren’t there other ways I can be more open-hearted?  I would answer “yes and no”.  Yes, there are many ways to open the heart but gratitude is one of the most powerful ways.  Also, without an experience of gratitude it is difficult to maintain an open heart.

Spiritual traditions have honored the practice of gratitude for thousand of years and now science is getting on board as well.  There are a number of ongoing research projects on gratitude.  One is led by Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and author of the book Thanks: How The New Science Of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.  Here is an overview of Dr. Emmons research on how Gratitude affects both psychological and physical well-being (Source: http://gratitudepower.net/science.htm):

  • In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
  • A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment:  Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.
  • A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others).  There was no difference in levels of unpleasant emotions reported in the three groups.
  • Participants in the daily gratitude condition were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another, relative to the hassles or social comparison condition.
  • In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.

So, as you can see there are many potential benefits from the practice of Gratitude.  Wouldn’t you like to have more energy? Sleep better? Be more optimistic? Feel more connected to others? Have less stress?  Live a happier life?

Making A Gratitude List:  Take a few moments after reading this post to make a Gratitude list just for today.  It can be as short or long as you’d like.  You may want to put it in your journal or create a special Gratitude notebook.  You may just want to write it on a slip of paper and when you are done recycle it.  It’s not necessarily something you need to keep, but it’s what feels right to you.  For some people it helps to have a list to look back on when they are having a bad day or just want to review what they have been grateful for.  Keep it simple and make it work for you.  Taking just a few moments everyday to practice Gratitude can make a big difference in how you experience life.

Are you ready to cultivate an attitude of Gratitude to see what’s possible?

Here is my Gratitude list for today as an example.  Feel free to share yours in the comments below if you feel to as well as any reflections or comments on the practice of Gratitude.

Today, I am grateful for:

  1. Being Alive
  2. Visiting with family and friends over the holiday
  3. Doing work I love to do
  4. Books
  5. The sense of fun my cats bring to my life
  6. My loving relationship
  7. Going for a walk today
  8. Feeling my feelings even when they are intense
  9. The joy of writing
  10. Having a warm home and a bed to sleep in
  11. The sound of the wind chimes ringing outside my window

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