The world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, Robert Emmon, has done research that demonstrates that practicing gratitude has a number of significant physical and mental health benefits. His studies show that people who practice gratitude have fewer health complaints, more energy and determination, greater satisfaction with life, as well as more optimism and resilience. He knows this as a scientific reality, I know it as a sacred principle.
Elite athletes use gratitude practices to help them win and stay mentally prepared to compete at the highest levels. In the summer of 2018, tennis star, Novak Djokovic wrote an open letter to fans after winning his fourth Wimbledon title. In it he discusses the injuries, lack of motivation and other mental roadblocks he faced leading up to winning the championship title. He stresses how intentionally cultivating gratitude was a major factor in his ability to stay focused and balanced as he pursued his career in sports while also maintaining his family life.
Practicing gratitude, a proven technique
Today, therapists and spiritual leaders are using gratitude practices with people who are facing long-term health conditions. They are finding that gratitude supports acceptance and positive relationships with others. Whether you are someone who is competing at a high level in your career, dealing with stress at home, facing a major health challenge or just looking for ways to bring more positive feelings into your daily life and relationships, practicing gratitude is a proven technique. Here is a simple gratitude meditation that I learned from Buddhist monk, Jack Kornfield:
Fill in the blank with something or someone (e.g. my family, the earth, my breath, my health, my safety…).
Sit comfortably and breathe gently and repeat the words: I’m grateful for ______”
Continue to breathe gently. Bring to mind someone you care about, someone it is easy to rejoice for. Picture them and feel the natural joy you have for their well-being, for their happiness and success. With each breath, offer them your grateful, heartfelt wishes:
May you be joyful.
May your happiness increase.
May you not be separated from great happiness.
May your good fortune and the causes for your joy and happiness increase.
Sense the sympathetic joy and caring in each phrase. Eventually extend this practice to another person you care about. Recite the same simple phrases that express your heart’s intention.
Then gradually open the meditation to include neutral people, difficult people, and even enemies until you extend sympathetic joy and gratitude to all beings everywhere, young and old, near and far.
Join us at All Souls on every Sunday in November to explore the theme of Gratitude with our members, ministers, and friends.
We’d love to have you with us, together in community and covenant. Join us in person or online each week at 10 a.m. or 11:30. Learn more about our services and how to join in.
Read more from Rev. Dr. Marlin Lavanhar on beyondbelief.online. Stories about our free-faith curated from the heartland.
Republished with minor revisions from October 2018.
Photo Credit: Photo by Bart LaRue on Unsplash