The Secret Power of Gratitude

I love this time of year, when the spirit of gratitude fills the air. The power of gratitude is remembered and embraced. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to each and every one of you. In honor of Thanksgiving and the spirit of gratitude, there is a new meditation audio available: The Lake of Gratitude

It’s easy to be thankful when all is well – yet the real influence of gratitude not only transforms our mundane lives, it can shift a rough circumstance in a moment. And with that shift, happiness and health are possible.

There is mounting evidence on the effects of gratitude as the physiological mechanisms of positive psychology and happiness are being increasingly explored by researchers. The heart-brain connection is key. The heart communicates with the brain, thereby influencing information processing, perceptions, emotions and health. It has been shown that the state of appreciation is a vital component of happiness, and is accompanied by many positive physiological effects such as increased immune function, lowered blood pressure and cortisol levels, reduced pain, improved sleep and more.

Gratitude opens the doorway to happiness, health and well-being.

What is gratitude? Gratitude is a quality of being thankful – it’s living in a state where we are constantly recognizing how much we do have, and not paying that much attention to what we don’t have. Our gratitude level can be measured or summed up with the proverbial philosophical question,

“Is the glass half full or half empty?”

It’s easy to talk about – tougher to live! The challenge lies in the fact that we all live in a rapidly changing world with 7.7 billion people in it, full of unexpected surprises. We are not in control of much of what happens around us in our outside world or all of our circumstances. Yet, what we can control are our internal perceptions. We get to choose our thoughts, which in turn affects our emotional responses.

The idea of perception and gratitude isn’t new.  Buddha said,

“You are what you think. All that you are arises with your thoughts.

With your thoughts you make the world.”

With gratitude we can completely and fundamentally shift our experience of the world. When we live in that state of gratitude we align within, and tremendous power arises from the depths of our being. It is an infectious, gentle, humble quality. 

Have you noticed that when you are in a state of appreciation or gratitude, the fear, worry, anxiousness, despair or depression, etc. drops away as quickly as the sun melts a piece of ice? This is because it’s not possible to feel heartfelt gratitude and be anxious, etc, at the same time. They are mutually exclusive. You get to choose. And you choose wisely, giving yourself incredible power.

Gratitude melts away uncomfortable feelings.

Gratitude and prayer going hand in hand. Prayer can often be a list of what we want, rather than appreciation for what we already have. And what does the universe do with that? It hears what we don’t have, like ripples of “I don’t have this” going out in a lake, and reinforces it! And it doesn’t feel good because it carries the energy of lack, hoping, waiting, worry, etc. However, when we embrace a practice of gratitude, recognizing and emphasizing what we already have, we feel a blossoming sense of joy and well-being come from the depths of our own being. That joy and well-being is our natural state.

Too simplistic of a solution? Consider the example of falling in love – the unshakable experience of blissfully, happily being on cloud nine. Research shows that falling in love improves immune system response. How can we live in that state of joy and lightness all of the time? One way is by embracing gratitude!

The true art of a gratitude practice happens when we remember to appreciate the unexpected gifts that arise out of challenges! It’s easy to be grateful when all is well and the mood is right.

Can you be grateful for...

 ...what you do have yet feel that you don’t have enough of?

...the areas of your life that aren’t perfect?

...your body when it doesn’t feel good?

...the unwanted circumstances?

...challenging people?

These are our greatest teachers and greatest gifts. Inherent wisdom and growth derive from those experiences.

Here are some simple gratitude activating exercises:

1.      “My Gifts” list: Make a list of the people, places, things or situations, etc, that you appreciate.

2.      Gratitude journal: You can keep that My Gifts list alive and active by making it into a journal that you add to.

3.      “Thank you for...” exercise: This is my personal favorite. A spontaneous acknowledgement and review in your own mind of all the things you are grateful for. It could be as simple as the oxygen you breath, or your lungs’ ability to process that air. Try this one at night when you can’t sleep – it’s better than counting sheep!

Gratitude gives you tremendous power. You have a lot, feel more fulfilled, lucky and happy – and your states of gratitude, joy and happiness give other people the ability to have that experience as well. It’s contagious!

This is the secret power of gratitude: Your gratitude serves the world.

May the lake of gratitude sourced from within you ripple out to bless you and others throughout the year.