With help and a high five from our friend and Positive Psychology and Philosophy guru Taylor Kreiss, this month we’re reflecting on one of our favorite themes: Gratitude. Guided by some of our favorite thinkers and writers including Gretchen Rubin, Brené Brown, Brother David Steindl-Rast, and Dr. Robert Emmons, here are a few things we learned about gratitude this month:
1. Power up.
Once we began looking at the leading research on the practice of gratitude, we discovered the incredible list of benefits scientists and researchers have linked to it! Check this out: positive psychologists have found that regularly feeling and expressing gratitude can help us build relationships, improve physical health, boost self esteem, increase empathy, reduce aggression, build resilience, and sleep and feel better overall. Quite the list, if we do say so ourselves. Dr. Robert Emmons, a researcher and professor of psychology at UC Davis writes, “Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change peoples’ lives.”
We explore the many benefits of practicing Gratitude in this month’s Gratitude Guide.
2. Gratitude in every moment.
Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine Monk and the world’s foremost teacher of gratitude, shares this important wisdom: There are many things in life we can’t be grateful for (sickness, violence, pain, injustice), but in every moment we have the opportunity to be grateful. This lesson in particular really resonated with me. It reminds us that practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be a kind of blind positivity or optimism in the face of all the suffering in the world; rather it can be a thoughtful orientation to look for something beautiful or powerful or moving in all moments. It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one, I think. Even in challenging or painful moments, we can be grateful for the lessons they teach us, for the power to stand up and act, or for our ability to reach out and connect.
We consider this important lesson in our Curated Resources for the month of Gratitude.
3. Step off the treadmill.
One of our biggest impediments to overall contentment is the hedonic treadmill (also known as hedonic adaptation). In the 1980s, researchers Brickman, Coates, and Janoff-Bulman conducted a study on this phenomenon, looking at two groups of people: individuals who won the lottery and received large sums of money and victims of accidents that resulted in paralysis. While both groups experienced strong emotional reactions to those major life events, in the long term neither group appeared to be happier than the other, and both groups reverted to their previous levels of happiness.
The hedonic treadmill teaches us that even after a change in status, wealth, relationships, health, etc., most people typically return to their baseline level of happiness. We may have strong emotional reactions and spikes in happiness or sadness immediately after, but that typically for most of us that levels out, even when if those events bring about lasting change.
4. With gratitude, everything is enough.
Melody Beattie writes, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” It’s so easy to get caught up thinking we need (not just want) more — to do more, be more have more, buy more, accomplish more. When we take a moment to recognize the goodness in our lives, so much of that pressure disappears and we’re left with a little more peace with the world around us and a greater sense of contentment with ourselves. 👍
5. With every breath.
One of the best things about Gratitude is that it’s something most of us can do at any point in our day. We can take a moment to reflect on what we’re grateful for when we’re driving to work, sitting down for a cup of coffee in the morning, before a stressful meeting, at the start of a yoga class, while making our families dinner, in a moment of joy or sadness, in times of ease and comfort as well as hardship. Gratitude is always an option. Let’s choose it more often. ❤️
Hey, Members. 👋 Don’t forget to check out this month’s theme page to access the Gratitude Guide, Curated Resources, and the Gratitude Art desktop and mobile art downloads to go a little deeper into each of these concepts and keep the theme at the front of your mind this month!
Jennifer Lioy is a writer, designer, illustrator, feelings-haver, and all-things-doer at Holstee (technically, the Creative and Communications Lead if anyone important is asking). She lives in Austin, TX and would eat breakfast tacos every day if she could. If given the chance, she will corner you in a bar to ask you what you’re afraid of.
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Every month we select a few writers to help us explore what it means to live more fully and mindfully. Reach out to Jennifer, our Editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about contributing.
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