I was asked to speak about Gratitude the other day along with Carol Bakhos, chair and director of the Center for the Study of Religion program at UCLA and Alex Korb, a neuroscientist, writer and coach on the study of happiness.
The discussion that ensued was fascinating.
Korb revealed exciting yet not surprising facts about the benefits of gratitude. Korb described how gratitude boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine, which can act as an antidepressant. In fact, he connected gratitude with overall happiness. Perhaps this connection is best explained in his book, The Upward Spiral:
“Everything is interconnected. Gratitude improves sleep. Sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves your mood. Improved mood reduces anxiety, which improves focus and planning. Focus and planning help with decision making. Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives you more to be grateful for, which keeps that loop of the upward spiral going. Enjoyment also makes it more likely you’ll exercise and be social, which, in turn, will make you happier”
Bakhos brought her own revelations through her religious and cultural studies and the ubiquitous practices of gratitude that permeate all religions. She recounted the intentional practice of gratitude in every culture she has studied and the benefits they produce personally and interpersonally.
I have a distinct different feeling when I think of being grateful versus gratitude. For me, Grateful is a feeling I get when something good has happened (e.g., if someone swerves into my lane and doesn’t hit me when I’m driving, I’m grateful there wasn’t a collision; or if I mistakenly text or e-mail a message to the wrong person, but realize there wasn’t anything embarrassing or damaging in the message I’m also grateful.) Come on… we ALL have done this, right?
On the other hand, Gratitude is something that is a part of my faith. Gratitude is present regardless of and irrelevant to any promise of an outcome. My gratitude isn’t dependent on a desired result, it is simply a part of my daily consciousness. When I wake up in the morning I have tremendous gratitude I get another day, even before anything has happened.
For me, being grateful is followed by a “thank you” while gratitude is a constant state of being. Gratitude and gratefulness are reflections of each other that create ripples of happiness when embraced.
How do you describe Gratitude?