Seven benefits of gratitude


Benefits of gratitudeNow we are coming up to Thanksgiving here in the United States, and apparently the word “thanks” is connected to the word “grateful”, no surprises there, really. (“Grateful” is also loosely related to the word “grace”.) So this is the time of the year to feel grateful, which is nice, as study after study shows that gratitude is an enormous predictor of happiness, a kind of happiness superpower, and we all like being happy.

Plus we need to feel happy if we are to avoid being a grumpy git and ruin everyone’s Thanksgiving. Have you noticed that we are far more likely to get annoyed if we are already not feeling happy inside? How when things feel good and we are connected to our own inner peace, happiness, and confidence, minor annoyances don’t worry us at all – but how on the other hand when we feel unsettled inside, not good in ourselves, not whole, split off from our own peace, the smallest thing can set us off? This might sound obvious, but that doesn’t seem to prevent us, the moment we do get annoyed, from casting around for something or someone else to blame, anything other than our own disgruntled state of mind.

Join the clubcontrol mind

Things are changing all the time, and I mean literally moment by moment – this is called impermanence – so is it any wonder that things don’t always change in the direction we want them to? We all have to keep re-adjusting to changing circumstances, we have no choice. However, if our mind is calm and we know we have everything we need inside, we hardly care. And one of the most powerful ways to get there is to train in gratitude. This means actually putting time aside to think about it.

Great-full

I sometimes think of “grateful” as “great-full”, ie, feeling full of all that is great. (Or something like that.) Dictionary.com says it means “warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful” as well as “pleasing to the mind or senses; agreeable or welcome; refreshing.”

Gratitude does please our mind. It helps us enjoy our lives immensely. It helps us feel happy, whole, enriched, and confident. Instead of focusing on the things that are wrong with our life, and of course we can all come up with a long list, we focus on the things that are right.

How does that square with the need to focus on our suffering in order to develop renunciation? (Just in case you are wondering.) This is samsara after all, so what on earth are we supposed to be happy about? Generally the only time it is worth focusing on our own suffering is just for that reason, in order to develop the wish to get rid of it all and its causes. But at the times we are feeling hopelessly unhappy, bereft, annoyed, sorry for ourselves – the chances are that we are not focusing on our suffering in this constructive way at all. At which point we can either shift our focus to renunciation, or shift our focus away from what’s wrong to what’s right, developing gratitude instead.

The grass is not always greenergrass greener

Too often we pine over the things we haven’t got whilst neglecting the things we have. Counting our blessings is a way to focus on what we’ve got going for us, the green grass right under our noses.

By the way, I don’t know if this is relevant but I’ve been thinking lately about how there is never any point in trying to replace people and things we have lost. Better to tune into what is now and we’ll feel whole again. Not, “Oh this is just a pale imitation of the living conditions/relationship/job etc I had!” It is not a pale imitation, it is just different. It is not supposed to replace anything, and if we don’t set it up as a replacement we might just find that we are enjoying it in its own right. Be happy in ourselves and we can enjoy everything that comes our way.

Some scientifically proven benefits of gratitude

As I said, there are a ton of articles out these days about the power of gratitude. This article for example gives 7 scientifically proven benefits of gratitude, so I thought I’d give a quick unscientific comment on all of them.

Gratitude:

  1. Opens the door to more relationships. Hardly surprising really, who doesn’t like being around someone who appreciates them?!
  2. Improves physical health. All I’ll say here is that I was feeling very grateful this morning (hence this article) and my good mood made me go for a swim in a pool in the snow.
  3. Improves psychological health. Gratitude “effectively increases happiness and reduces depression” and “reduces a multitude of toxic emotions (read “delusions”), ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret.” That’s understandable, and cool.
  4. Enhances empathy and reduces aggression. For sure.
  5. Grateful people sleep better. Yup, I love sleeping!
  6. Improves self-esteem. And “reduces social comparisons”. Yes, if we are grateful to others, we tend to want to repay them, and it becomes natural to rejoice in them instead of comparing ourselves and falling short.
  7. Increases mental strength. Gratitude “reduces stress” and “fosters resilience”. There is nothing more resilient than a peaceful, controlled mind, which we get with gratitude.

That was only 7. This article gives 31 benefits of gratitude🙂 But I’ll spare you my comments.

pigletNow I don’t know if this kind of thing impresses you or not, but I’ll mention it just in case. Gratitude also boosts our dopamine and serotonin levels. It is apparently even a form of emotional intelligence and “affects neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex” (which apparently is a good thing).

Feel free to Google “gratitude benefits” or whatever and you’ll have a stack of bedtime reading.

Before teaching how to generate a positive state of mind, Buddha Shakyamuni would always talk first about its benefits to encourage us to go for it. So hopefully you’ve decided that gratitude is what you want, in which case, in the next article I carry on with this and share some Buddhist techniques for feeling more grateful.

Meanwhile, I am always (well, almost always) grateful for your comments …

Comments

  1. Hi Luna, an excellent article, as usual, but I would like to add a small observation. Do you know this poem (Ist verse only)?

    “There are days when the world is against you
    There are moments when nothing goes right
    When a heavy cloud seems to surround you
    And you cannot get through to the light…..”

    The poem is about gratitude, of course, but we all have days when we are overwhelmed by our suffering, and realising that it’s the ego, or whatever, doesn’t always help (it doesn’t do any harm to recognise the ego but….), because the pain is too great. Sitting and observing the pain doesn’t always help the person either. Sometimes, you just have to evacuate the pain, usually through crying, until you can return to a state of calm to recognise and express gratitude.

    We know that our ultimate objective is a state of equanimity and we know too that getting to this state (even though we know there is nowhere to get to – words eh!!!) is not easy for most of us. We have to accept our parabda karma (the arrow has already left the bow), and quite simply put, we have good days and bad days and all I’m suggesting is let’s not forget those who have really bad days and maybe let them relieve their suffering through crying or other forms of evacuation first. When the cup is full, you first have to empty some of it before you can put more in. Maybe we could dedicate our own feelings of gratitude (even though we don’t “possess” them) to those that are going through a period of REALLY hard suffering?

    Just a few thoughts on the subject.
    Best wishes
    Jacqueline LION

    • I agree. Samsara sucks, it is a prison pervaded by suffering. Have to break ourselves and everyone else out as quickly as possible by whatever means available.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this great article and the reminder Luna . As well as being grateful for all the day to day kindness and service I receive from living beings I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to meet with Buddha dharma and sangha and for their wisdom to help me understand this worldly realm, it gives me the tools to be a kinder person which I know makes the people around me grateful and so the power of gratitude and its benefits spreads………. ❤️🌎😀 xx

  3. Every morning, well… (almost every morning) when I switch the kettle on for my first cup of coffee 🍵 I feel this sense of ” gratitude” for having boiling water in an instant and I contemplate… what come on top of the list in a research many years ago (Soweto) if you had electricity… what would you buy first ?? Guess… ” Kettle ” tomorrow morning, I’m going to had ” Great -full ” to my contemplation… Thank you 😊 Luna… for one more great teaching…

  4. A very good reading

  5. Eric Bachmann says:

    Well, just spent the week in hospital with a viral infection. I’m grateful for all of the caretakers, time and energy spent on me. Also, so very grateful for the family and Sangha friends making prayers for me. I would also say that relying on the three Jewells helped me get through a bit of panicked feeling. Prayers and mantra while not able to makee happy, allowed me space to practice renunciation. Thank you.

  6. Kelsang Denyi says:

    I am very grateful for this and every post that you kindly give us. Thank you x

  7. Lotusblossom888 says:

    I love Pooh lol 😊
    Well I started yesterday with a head cold! I relax into this as I know I will get one this time of year and I say to myself it’s like clearing out the head lol
    I am greatful for a warm home many do not have one
    I am greatful for hot drinks many do not any
    I am greatful for food many do not have any
    I think of all those I see at this time of year living rough and having very little and even though I have no room in my home for them to stay I take them a hot drink and food!
    I also make sure my bird feeders are well stocked so my feathered friends have food to see them through the winter cold
    I am greatful that I have enough myself so I can share with others! The only thing I hope I do not share is my cold especially with the elderly as that could lead to bigger more serious complications with breathing etc
    I am greatful I have the wisdom to see these things are a great blessing to me and that makes me very greatful 😉

  8. Anonymous says:

    love this article, thank you Luna!

I'd love to hear from you...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: