If you go to the website of Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, you will find that one of their core themes is gratitude. In fact, their multiyear Expanding Gratitude Project seeks to expand the science and practice of gratitude. Why? Because researchers have discovered that people who practice gratitude consistently report:
- Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
- Higher levels of positive emotions;
- More joy, optimism, and happiness;
- Acting with more generosity and compassion;
- Feeling less lonely and isolated.
Good news: feeling grateful is a skill we can develop with practice.
An easy tool is the Gratitude Journal. There is one online http://www.thnx4.org/. Register there and receive an email every other day for 21 days inviting you to share what you felt grateful for recently. After
21 days, you receive a gratitude profile. Or, like me, you can simply note in your own journal times those moments when you feel grateful.
Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain, suggests we go a bit further to change our brains so that they swim in a sea of gratitude. His three-step process:
- Notice the positive
- Savor it – sustain it for 10 to 20 seconds, feel it in your body and emotions
- as you soak it in, think of it as soaking into your brain and body, registering it deep in your emotional memory
Yesterday I was at United Hospital. I spent six weeks there last year after a complicated burst appendix. Waiting in the lobby after an x-ray (everything is fine), I heard the relaxing music that was the soundtrack of my hospital stay. I immediately relaxed into gratitude, remembering the wonderful care I received and the sense of having nothing to do but heal. The music was the cue for my emotional memory. Rick Hanson is inviting me to make more such cues.
I want to live in a sea of gratitude, beyond fear and without enemies.