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Gratitude not only feels good, it is good for you! People who regularly cultivate gratitude have stronger immune systems, tend to exercise more, and experience higher levels of well being and goal attainment. It is my personal experience that physical pain can be reduced through the practice of gratitude.
In my cultivation of gratitude as a conscious choice and practice, I've come to understand feeling grateful in 4 stages:
Stage 1 External Gratitude: . Usually, we experience gratitude when something fortunate happens that benefits us in some way. This fortuitous event more strongly triggers gratitude if it is unexpected. This is a good place to start to connect to gratitude. We can all make a practice of remembering some of the wonderful things that have befallen us. We can consciously choose to appreciate good fortune as it happens and to really savor and celebrate the good times we experience.
The downfall of this form of gratitude is that sometimes the world or life brings us unexpected difficulty or challenge. If we have not made gratitude a self directed choice, we may lose our sense of gratitude when confronted with difficulty. We may feel unlucky and ask "why me? " and feel victimized. Of course, loss is usually accompanied by feelings of this type at least for a time. But with a steadfast practice of gratitude supporting us, we can move through feelings of victimization more easily.
Stage 2 Present Moment Gratitude: We can consciously choose to feel grateful for things and people in our lives that are present now and we may take for granted. We can choose to feel gratitude for the wonderful people who are always with us: family, long time friends, our partners. We can choose to feel grateful for our car, our home, the food we have to eat, the clothes we have. Most of us living in the U.S. are exceptionally well off compared to the rest of the world.
We can feel gratitude for ourselves:the health we have, our minds, the fact that we have eyes to see the beauty of the world and ears to hear the wind, water, music and a loved ones voice.
Stage 3 Gratitude of Challenge: At this stage we begin to understand that even difficult situations can have elements that we can feel grateful for. This is stage is more challenging and there may be events and circumstances that we currently just find impossible to feel grateful for. This is fine and can be a necessary stage to be at for a while. But just holding in your heart the desire for gratitude is very healing.
Perhaps the unpleasant experiences have helped us to develop some skills and abilities we didn't feel motivated to develop before. Perhaps the unpleasant experiences have pushed us to the point where, unaware of any other choice to stop the suffering, we finally discovered incredible resources within ourselves, powers that were lying dormant and untapped.
Stage 4 Energetic Gratitude : We can experience Energetic Gratitude. At this stage we simply connect to the energy of gratitude. It is gratitude without an object. We focus on the feeling of gratitude resonating in our bodies both as a physcial sensation and energetic connection. This form of gratitude is most easily experienced in meditation. All emotion has a specific frequency and resonance that effects us on physiological, emotion and spiritual levels. Gratitude is one of the highest frequency emotions. We can feel gratitude for simply being alive, for all of life. We offer this energy up to the whole universe and as we offer it up, it rains back down as love and abundance. The traditional name for this kind of gratitude in spiritual traditions is devotion.
For me the best way to cultivate gratitude consciously is through meditation. Keeping a journal of all the circumstance, events and people in your life that trigger gratitude is also a wonderful practice.
Be well everyone, and be grateful. It feels good and is good for you and everyone around you.
With heartfelt thanks and appreciation,
Sue Schmidt CMT, C.Ht
(720) 890 7453
in the past decade, science has become more interested in positive emotions. To read a study on gratitude click http://emmons.faculty.ucdavis.edu/