by Charles Wm. Skillas, PhD, DD, BCH, CI, FNGH, MCCHt


It is said that the pilgrims dug twice the number of graves than they built huts to live in. But they created and observed a holiday of gratitude which we now call Thanksgiving. They were religious, yes, but they were also pretty smart about how gratitude could help them survive in the "New World".

The Lord Buddha said "Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; and if we did die, then we should be thankful that we ever lived". Meister Eckhart said that if the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. Let us reflect on gratitude or thanksgiving and see what is involved here.

When you think about people like Schweitzer, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, or others who really gave themselves away. They really led a selfless life, for the benefit of other people.

In the cases of Mother Teresa and others that are talked about in the literature, one of the qualities that tend to motivate them is gratitude. They don't seem to fit the usual conception of gratitude where you see a benefit and then you're grateful. They felt grateful for the opportunity to help, as opposed to receiving help. They knew there was some benefit for them in developing compassion or whatever it was, and so they didn't need to receive gratefulness from the people they helped. I think what enabled them to persist under stressful circumstances was just the ability to be helpful, which created in them a sense of gratitude, a sense of purpose, that they wouldn't otherwise have had.

I think it's important to stress that gratitude is really a choice. It doesn't depend upon circumstances or genetic wiring or something that we don't have control over. It really becomes an attitude that we can choose that makes life better for ourselves and for other people. I think about it as the best approach to life and I think that the pilgrims did also. When things go well gratitude enables us to savor things going well. When things go poorly, gratitude enables us to get over those situations and to realize they are temporary and this helps us greatly.

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a seemingly good day irritated by the slightest little thing? Maybe the traffic on the road home was stalled, or special plans for the evening were disrupted. And, that one little thing shifts your whole mindset into negativity.

The next time this happens, consider stopping yourself in mid-grumble and opening your mind to all that you could be grateful for instead. Your friends, family, home, car-or just the chance God has given you to take in all that this beautiful day holds. Not only will you find your attitude blossoming into one of great peace, you'll open up the pathways to let more abundance into your life.

Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore once wrote: "It has been found by experience that a person increases his blessings by being grateful for what he has. Gratitude even on the mental plane is a great magnet. When gratitude is expressed from the spiritual standpoint it is powerfully augmented."

When you express gratitude for what you've been given-even if it is in the form of being grateful for a challenge-God hears your heart's joy and responds in kind. When we are happy in our heart and soul, whatever we need flows to us by divine grace.

It's with great delight that we should remember this idea, not just during the Thanksgiving holiday, but throughout the year. After all, isn't giving thanks at all times really just reaffirming our trust in and love for God?

Researchers find the virtues of gratitude include good health.

In recent years, many scientists have begun examining the links between religion and good health, both physical and mental. Now two psychologists are working to unlock the puzzle of how faith might promote happiness. Dr. Michael McCollough, of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Dr. Robert Emmons, of the University of California at Davis, say their initial scientific study indicates that gratitude plays a significant role in a person's sense of well-being.

From Cicero to Buddha, many philosophers and spiritual teachers have celebrated gratitude. The world's major religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hindu, prize gratitude as a morally beneficial emotional state that encourages reciprocal kindness. Pastors, priests, parents and grandparents have long extolled the virtues of gratitude, but until recently, scholars have largely ignored it as a subject of scientific inquiry.

McCollough and Emmons were curious about why people involved in their faith seem to have more happiness and a greater sense of well-being than those who aren't and decided to study the connections. After making initial observations and compiling all the previous research on gratitude, they conducted the Research Project on Gratitude and Thanksgiving. The study required several hundred people in three different groups to keep daily diaries. The first group kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day, while the second group recorded their unpleasant experiences. The last group made a daily list of things for which they were grateful.

The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved. McCollough and Emmons also noted that gratitude encouraged a positive cycle of reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages another.

McCullough says these results also seem to show that gratitude works independently of faith. Though gratitude is a substantial part of most religions, he says the benefits extend to the general population, regardless of faith or lack thereof. In light of his research, McCullough suggests that anyone can increase their sense of well-being and create positive social effects just from counting their blessings.

I am grateful for my life and especially for my profession as a clinical hypnotherapist and teacher. I am full of gratitude for being able to help people in distress. Look at your own life and, no matter what your problems, think about the blessings you have. Just to be alive is wonderful.


This article is intended for general informational purposes
and does not provide medical, psychological, or other professional advice.


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