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The Science of Gratitude

Posted Nov 09 2011 12:18pm

Ok, it’s not a “hard” science, but studies abound. During this month of thanks giving, we focus on how lucky we are and hope that some of that gratitude will stick with us the rest of the year. The truth is, it probably will. Everyone has something for which to be grateful. In Buddha’s wisdom:

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.

The aforementioned studies find that showing gratitude, not just “being” grateful, increase a positive outlook and make us more likely to feel fulfilled, do things for others, exercise more and complain less. All these things in turn, attract abundance to us, giving us even more reason to acknowledge our bounty.  We become mindful of our actions and our thought patterns. We are increasingly aware of how our words and deeds affect other people, are less likely to respond in anger, and are better able to cope.

Even children reap these benefits. According to the Science of Parenting,

adolescents who were grateful showed greater optimism, greater satisfaction with their family, friends, community, school and self, and an overall positive outlook on their life, including positive thoughts concerning their friends’ and families’ support. Research with older adolescents revealed that gratitude is positively associated with life satisfaction, social integration, and academic achievement, and negatively related to envy, depression, and materialism. Other studies have shown that children who express or acknowledge gratitude sleep better and have stronger bonds and relationships with others; these advantages also correlate with children’s development of competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring/compassion.

And, it appears that the benefits of this healthy outlook can last up to six months.

Gratitude, Pilgrims, Indians, Mental HealthIn the first Thanksgiving feast, the Pilgrims were thankful to the Indians for helping them out that long winter instead of killing them outright. But, as we all know, the catalyst for the “movement” was worship–a large part of which is giving thanks to the Creator for the outpouring of blessings even when illness, death, and lack of basic necessities loomed large. Extra large. In comparison it seems silly in today’s world how much we really have, (you got that new 4s, right?) and hopefully we are giving thanks enough to feel fulfilled.

Tears of Gratitude

I’m leaving you this time with a show of gratitude. In my house we have picky eaters. On the frequent occasion when those eaters are not eating, we no longer become cross, force their meal upon them, or make them sit at the table until far past bedtime just to return to table to finish it cold at breakfast. (All these things we have tried.) Instead, we sit them down at the computer to watch this short film and then quietly and humbly, they return to the table and eat. I’m only slightly sorry if they don’t like what’s being served to them, the point is they’ve got a nutritious hot meal in front of them and they will feel grateful for that.

You’re not in trouble, but grab a tissue box and please take 6 minutes to watch “Chicken Ala Carte,” judged Most Popular Short Film at the 2006 Berlin International Film Festival.

Oh, and thank you.

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