Gratitude: Paying Our Debt of Thanks


Photo by Nicole Honeywill

Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness for what we have received – acknowledging the good, especially that which comes from or exists outside of us. Its a skill that doesn’t come easily for many of us because survival instincts predispose us to be vigilant to danger and difficulty.

Research is growing on the benefits of cultivating gratitude. A higher level of gratitude is correlated with a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, more positive emotions including joy, optimism, and happiness, greater generosity and compassion, and decreased feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. – William Arthur Ward

Being grateful does not mean ignoring difficulty or insisting on positive thinking even when we are suffering. Instead, cultivating gratitude helps us have a more balanced perspective. We transcend the default mode of attending overwhelmingly to threats to happiness by also including what has been beneficial to us. If you think about it, nothing good you possess, tangible or intangible, has been generated by you alone. Even the very cells of your body are externally influenced.

We can cultivate gratitude through a practice of mindfulness and meditation. Simply being still and present long enough to notice the good in our lives and all around us helps us to develop this attitude. We can adopt a habit of thanking others, either mentally or through direct communication, for what we receive from them. We can keep a journal of the things we are grateful for each day. The method is not as important as the intention behind it and one’s devotion to practice.

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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