Live Your Life Well: Gratitude
Can cultivating gratitude help us live our lives well? This is the question researcher Dr. Robert Emmons has been investigating for over a decade. And yes, he reports multiple psychological, physical, and emotional benefits from the practice of gratitude. His book, Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Emmons, 2008) delves into the importance of the practice of appreciation and giving thanks, but a few key take-a-ways include increased health habits such as exercise, increased positive emotion, and decreased isolation.
This last factor especially connects to the interdependence of non-profit work. It takes generosity and acceptance to make it possible. Think about expressing your thanks, the process of giving and receiving, and the connection that comes into play in both experiences. When we are grateful, in a sense we are humble. When we give, we can also be thankful to the receiver. At a non-profit, it is not one person or thing making good work possible, but a thousand hands giving and receiving. This is true of every family system, relationship, and even our daily human experience. It is not individual, but a system of people who make positive things happen. While the practice of gratitude has gained much attention with 30 day challenges and positive psychology's influence, as Dr. Emmons would say himself, many of the world's religions and cultures emphasize a practice of counting blessings.
Some easy ways to get started are recording three items a day in a journal for a month, identifying three different things/people at the end of the day or a specific time of day, openly expressing gratitude to those who help you in small and significant ways, and reflecting the steps you can take to create grateful moments for others. It might help to engage another in your practice to share and keep accountable.
With gratitude, A.M.