“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” G.K. Chesterson
Good morning and welcome to Day 2 of Create Your Best Life with Gratitude!
What is Gratitude and What Does It Feel Like?
Today is a very special day – you’re about to find out what gratitude really is and what it feels like.
Got your coffee or teal? Relax and have fun with this.
Take a couple of deep relaxing breaths through your nose.
Inhale for 4 and exhale for a count of 6.
Make a decision in advance, even if just for the next few minutes, to feel content.
People often think that gratitude means you say thank you when someone does something for you. Of course that’s true, but gratitude also has a deeper meaning.
To begin, here are a few definitions.
Psychology Today says gratitude is “an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has.”
Appreciation for What One Has
Robert A. Emmons, one of the world’s leading gratitude research experts, says gratitude reinforces the idea that there is good in our lives, even when things are not perfect.
Appreciation for the Good in Our Life Even When Things Are Not Perfect
In order to be immersed in this grateful state, when we express gratitude we benefit from the interconnectedness with other people, places and things.
Interconnectedness with Other People, Places and Things
Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindal-Rast, et.al, say that gratitude is the most “important cohesive element for society and the bridge connecting one human being with another.”
Gratitude Is the Most Cohesive Element in Society Connecting Us With Each Other
Their research says that if everything in society or a relationship of any kind is met with grumbling and dissatisfaction it undermines the community and the relationship.
So, think of gratitude as more than just an emotional response because it’s effects are much more pervasive.
In her book, Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life, Angeles Arrien writes that gratitude is also a choice.
Gratitude is a Choice
We always have the ability to make choices. Just like continuing to commit to your partner every day, gratitude is also a choice.
When you choose to feel certain a certain emotion, and it takes you to a place that is not in your best interest, you don’t feel all that great, right?
For example, have you ever known parents who parent by critcism and punishment? I know I do, and what I see are children who end up feeling so unappreciated and unloved that they choose drugs to fill the void.
Or maybe you can think of a time when you were so angry you did not even recognize yourself?
Here’s a remedy for that. Whenever you feel a negative emotion toward someone, write down five things you like about that person.
You’ll turn the negative into the positive and be surprised at how strong your relationship can become.
The good news is, we always have a choice.
We can consciously look for the good in people and in your life and express gratitude for them always.
It makes marriages last longer with happier partners, and does just the same for any friendship or partnership.
More Definitions of Gratitude
Author Melody Beattie says:
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life”. She continues,
Gratitude Turns What We Have Into Enough, Denial Into Acceptance, Chaos Into Order, Confusion to Clarity
“Gratitude can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
Here’s one more truly inspirational description of gratitude from The Science of Happiness.
Robert A. Emmons defines gratitude this way:
Gratitude is a Feeling of Wonder, Thankfulness and Appreciation of Life
Gratitude is the Key to Happiness
Wow! The key to happiness! That’s a pretty big statement and one that I love.
So, hopefully now, you have a better context for gratitude and what it means.
You may even want to create your own definition for gratitude.
When to Use Gratitude
Use Gratitude for the Way Through the Negativity We Are All Hardwired With
Neuropsychologists, including Rick Hanson, Ph.D., all tell us that our nervous systems were designed to keep us alive and not super comfortable!
Over thousands of years, we had to be vigilant and fearful and not zen-like, if we wanted to stay alive and be safe.
So basically, we are hardwired with what is known as a fight or flight negativity bias and we learn more from pain than pleasure.
This explains why it’s so much easier to find the negative in things rather than the positive, and why we might feel more stressed than we’d like.
So what then, where does gratitude come in if we are hardwired for all that negativity?
Gratitude is one of the ways we undo that negativity bias – so we are not always in the fight or flight mode.
You Can’t Feel Grateful and a Negative Emotion at the Same Time
Since gratitude actually blocks negative emotions, i.e. you can’t feel depressed, angry, critical, anxious or envious at the same time you’re feeling gratitude.
While you want to always honor your emotions, no matter what they are, the tip is not to get stuck in that negative emotion. Gratitude offers you the way through it.
So use gratitude when you want to improve your mood and when you want to turn a bad day into a good one.
What Does Authentic Gratitude Feel Like?
So let’s get to the “heart” and the feeling of gratitude so you can experience it for yourself.
Rather than a lot of science, wouldn’t you rather “know” what real gratitude feels like rather than merely have the words to describe it?
Lean Into Gratitude Exercise
What would it feel like to give one positive comment to each member of your family today? Or to three of your friends?
Tell them specifically “why” you are grateful for them
If you can’t speak directly with them, maybe you can write a little note and leave it where they are sure to find it.
Perhaps you can email your family, friends or even your co-workers.
Here are some examples of what to say:
Hey hon, I really appreciate you and how you are always doing such a great job putting the dishes away.
Thank you! It makes me feel so supported that after I cook you do the dishes.
For your friend: Hi Alice. I woke up really happy today and just wanted to tell you how grateful I am for our friendship and how truly supportive you are.
Remember that time when xxxx (you fill in the blanks for a time Alice supported you)…. It made me feel so loved and I just wanted to make sure you know.
Once you’ve written your notes, how do you feel?
Were you anxious, depressed or upset when you wrote the notes?
Or were you truly grateful? How did you feel overall?
How did your heart and mind feel?
This is gratitude is and what gratitude feels like. It truly connects us with others.
So, do you have a better idea of what gratitude is and how it feels?
Imagine what happens if you thank one person every day and tell them why you are so grateful?
This has a real to “go viral” as they say, and those people often do the same for someone else paying it forward, creating a culture of gratitude.
In your gratitude journal this evening, ask yourself what the best thing about your day was.
Then choose just one person and write why you are grateful for them. As you go through the day, find as many things as possible to be grateful for in your life.
I read about this exercise in a few books and it works like a charm! When you’re at a drive up window, or even paying a bridge toll where they is a toll taker present, buy a cup of coffee or pay the toll for the person behind you.
Imagine how good it will feel to you, and how the other person will feel. What if they went through their week and did the same for another person?
Can you see how gratitude multiplies the postive in life?
Enjoy the rest of your day and we’ll visit tomorrow!
Today’s Recommended Gratitude Resources
- Here’s a beautiful meditation on abundance and flow by Mary Morrisey, one of my favorite authors who wrote The Miracle Minute.
You may want to check it the 10 minute meditation – she is so inspirational!
- Here’s an article showing 100 things to be grateful for– it will give you lots of ideas about what to write in your gratitude journal
Enjoy your day, and be sure to check your email for day 3 tomorrow.