Martin Seligman, sometimes referred to as the ‘father of positive psychology’ is well known for his work on Learned Helplessness and working with soldiers who have PTSD. At the core of his work is a basic principle: knowing and experiencing what it is that makes you happy is the first step in achieving it. Seligman and others have been advocates for the benefits of gratitude in changing stress, anxiety, relationship problems, and more. It’s a rewiring of the brain that is so simple and yet so profound.
But going further back, the spiritual greats like Meister Eckhart, St. Paul, Buddha, all speak of the centrality of gratitude for a fulfilling life. Again there is a basic principle, that once we realise we have life, that we have enough, that we are good enough, there is a sense of contentment and fulfilment in a spirtual sense that reorders our perspective on life. Hence the joy in poverty for St. Francis who surendered great wealth so that he could be free to serve the poor and the outcast.
I have a collection of quotes that I draw from periodically, and these are some of my favourites on gratitude:
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” (Marcel Proust)
“In a normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Letters and Papers from Prison)
“Gratitude unlocks the fulness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” (Melodie Beattie)
I can’t say I’m great at doing it, but more often than not I am grateful for much and try to express it. I try to recollect each day the good of it, no matter how small to the mind’s eye (yet huge to the heart), like a single blossom, an eagle in flight, a drop of water on a blade of grass have been a few. I think gratitude does change me, makes me more mindful, less greedy, more aware, less worried. For me the glass is always a gift no matter the level of fluid in it. Imagine a world of gratitude!