When was the last time you felt and consciously expressed gratitude? An awareness of giving thanks often slips through the cracks as precious moments fly by throughout the business of the day. A nod or smile of acknowledgement or a quick "thank you" is what most seem to have time for throughout the day.
Gratitude is deeply rooted in the spiritual aspect of life as well as being an essential source of our spiritual health. Numerous research studies, now demonstrate that gratitude is connected to physical and emotional health. When gratitude and appreciation are expressed, it is often understood that the good that comes our way is not always within one's power, but connected to something greater. The simple act of taking the time to offer deep thanks and appreciation, helps pull us out of our limited sense of self. Gratitude may allow for a sense of peace; an increased connection to others; a higher power; the universe or to nature. The point is that this intentional work of gratitude, has the potential to pull us into our higher self.
According to a 2011 article in The Harvard Mental Health Letter, there is good news in the results of several evidence-based studies, by positive psychology researchers on the benefits of gratitude. Research on gratitude is showing a consistent correlation between gratitude and greater happiness in one's life. Some of the studies show increased happiness, positive mood, the ability to deal with hardship, improved health and more solid relationships.
According to research, gratitude is more powerful than other positive psychology interventions for increasing happiness and mood. A Harvard article refers to a study of 411 subjects, done by Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman. In the study, the first group wrote about early memories while the second group wrote about and delivered a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for their kindness. According to the research, the participants in the second group demonstrated an immediate rise in their happiness scores which stayed elevated for a month.
The Harvard Newsletter also referred to a study by psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami. In the study, "One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred that week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). according to the research, after 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation."
Finding Myself Through Gratitude
I began a gratitude practice close to four years ago. At the time, I was going through great distress in a rocky relationship. My longtime friend and teacher, Rabbi David Zaslow, recommended the book, "Help, Thanks, Wow" by Anne Lamott. I bought the book and before I even began reading it, I started a daily practice of, "Help and Thanks". I found that the piece that Anne Lamott refers to as "Wow", magically appeared for me throughout the whole practice and trickled into my everyday world as a sense of deep wonder and love.
I follow my meditation practice each day with my now, strongly established gratitude practice. It has opened my heart and helped me find peace with the tumultuous nature of life. Soon after beginning this daily practice, I experienced the deepest connection I have ever felt to spirit. I felt as if my higher self was driving the car and I was in the back seat being guided by a new trustworthy "driver of my life". Gratitude practice has allowed me to dive deep into my feelings and has powerfully allowed for me to express my truth from the core of my being. The doors to my true self have opened and closing them is no longer an option.
Doing The Practice
My gratitude practice developed from the recommendation of a book and organically took on its own unique flow and style. It is natural for each person to discover their own way of offering thanks. Mine goes like this:
1) I invoke the presence of a higher being. In my practice, I call on, "Ribono shel Olam", Hebrew for, Master of the World . One can invoke the presence of who or what they feel spiritually connected to. I say, "Ribono shel Olam, Master of The World, dear God, hear my prayers, accept my gratitude". Some days I offer other variations and don't always know what will come out of my mouth.
2) I begin offering thanks for whoever or whatever comes to mind. I go into great detail with it here and once I start, the words and feelings begin to flow from my lips. I thank and thank and thank and more keeps coming. (You may feel to offer the same thanks each day, over and over, as well as thanks for all the new and relevant issues arising in your life)
3) Next, I ask for help for family members, friends, current planetary issues and for my own personal needs. In asking for help, I get extremely specific. This is not the time for "vague".
4) I allow my tears to flow during both the "thanks" and the "help"- serious, full-on, let it all out tears, sighs and sobs. (Keep a box of tissues nearby.)
As my practice has developed, it has tended to take on a life of its own. My "thank you's" and "help me's" now typically flow and spill from my lips, like a waterfall; a whoosh of energy. My gratitude practice has given me a deep sense of my inner strength and has allowed me to experience the gentle power of something big moving through my small self. This simple but potent practice has been a powerful catalyst for daily wonderment and healing, offering me a new map of reality.
Other Forms of Gratitude Practice
For those who want to begin your gratitude practice more gradually, you might try:
♥ Writing your thanks daily in a "Gratitude Journal".
♥ Sending thank you letters.
♥ Mentally offering thanks and asking for help throughout the day.
♥ Creating a special way to bless and offer thanks for your food.
♥ My very favorite way to practice gratitude in the midst of life is incredibly powerful and can be done at any time or place: ♥Look into the eyes of a another person you are communicating with and think to yourself, "I am so grateful you are here, right now. You have so much to teach me".
Many blessings to you and so much gratitude.- Sari