At every moment we have the choice of either feeling gratitude for what has been given to us or indulging in grievance about what is missing. Grievance and gratitude are polar opposites. Grievance focuses on what is not there – the imperfections of relational love – and looks for someone to blame. Gratitude recognises what is here – the simple beauty of human presence and contact – and responds to it with appreciation
John Welwood, Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships.
photo from Saint Roch Cemetery, New Orleans
Nowadays we tend to dismiss gratitude as merely a polite social convention or an occasional warm feeling. Modern psychologists have to take much of the blame, I’m afraid. We’ve spent too many years focusing on negative emotions - such as depression, anxiety, and hostility. Now that we’re finally paying serious attention to positive states - and are gathering solid data on their profound effect on mental, physical, and spiritual well-being - it’s time to get out the word that it’s good to feel good.
My colleagues and I are finding that gratitude, which we define as a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life, is more than simply a pleasant emotion to experience or a polite sentiment to express. It is, or at least can be, a basic disposition, one that seems to make lives happier, healthier, more fulfilling – and even longer. New data continues to pour in, but already it appears that 21st-century research will confirm what the wonderful G. K. Chesterton wrote back in 1908: “The test of all happiness is gratitude. Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he puts in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs?”
One is never lacking in opportunities to be happy, according to Chesterton, because around every corner is another gift waiting to surprise us.
Robert A. Emmons, Professor of psychology and Researcher on gratitude, University of California, Davis
The only appropriate response therefore is gratefulness. When we wake up to the fact that everything is a gift, it is only natural to be thankful and to look on everything that happens as a chance to respond to the Given Life.
David Steindl-Rast, The Music of Silence
If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times. In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have.
Gratitude is the sweetest of all the practices for daily life and the most easily cultivated, requiring the least sacrifice for what is gained in return. It is a very powerful form of mindfulness practice, particularly for those who have depressive or self-defeating feelings, and those with a reactive personality who habitually notice everything that’s wrong in a situation.
Practicing mindfulness of gratitude consistently leads to a direct experience of being connected to life and the realization that there is a larger context in which your personal story is unfolding. Cultivating thankfulness for being part of life blossoms into a feeling of being blessed, not in the sense of winning the lottery, but in a more refined appreciation for the interdependent nature of life. It also elicits feelings of generosity, which create further joy. Gratitude can soften a heart that has become too guarded, and it builds the capacity for forgiveness, which creates the clarity of mind that is ideal for spiritual development.
Phillip Moffitt, Selfless Gratitude