How Gratitude Can Change Your Life

Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our Abundance EpicurusHOW GRATITUDE CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

“If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart

Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given. Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present. In addition, behavioral and psychological research has shown the surprising life improvements that can stem from the practice of gratitude. Giving thanks makes people happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships, it improves health, and it reduces stress.


Two psychologists, Michael McCollough of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis, wrote an article about an experiment they conducted on gratitude and its impact on well-being. The study split several hundred people into three different groups and all of the participants were asked to keep daily diaries. The first group kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day without being told specifically to write about either good or bad things; the second group was told to record their unpleasant experiences; and the last group was instructed to make 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. In addition, those in the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly, and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.

Dr. Emmons – who has been studying gratitude for almost ten years and is considered by many to be the world’s leading authority on gratitude – is author of the book, “”. The information in this book is based on research involving thousands of people conducted by a number of different researchers around the world. One of the things these studies show is that practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%. This is significant, among other things, because just as there’s a certain weight that feels natural to your body and which your body strives to maintain, your basic level of happiness is set at a predetermined point. If something bad happens to you during the day, your happiness can drop momentarily, but then it returns to its natural set-point. Likewise, if something positive happens to you, your level of happiness rises, and then it returns once again to your “happiness set-point”. A practice of gratitude raises your “happiness set-point” so you can remain at a higher level of happiness regardless of outside circumstances.

In addition, Dr. Emmons’ research shows that those who practice gratitude tend to be more creative, bounce back more quickly from adversity, have a stronger immune system, and have stronger social relationships than those who don’t practice gratitude. He further points out that “To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.”


People tend to take for granted the good that is already present in their lives. There’s a gratitude exercise that instructs that you should imagine losing some of the things that you take for granted, such as your home, your ability to see or hear, your ability to walk, or anything that currently gives you comfort. Then imagine getting each of these things back, one by one, and consider how grateful you would be for each and every one. In addition, you need to start finding joy in the small things instead of holding out for big achievements—such as getting the promotion, having a comfortable nest egg saved up, getting married, having the baby, and so on–before allowing yourself to feel gratitude and joy.

Another way to use giving thanks to appreciate life more fully is to use gratitude to help you put things in their proper perspective. When things don’t go your way, remember that every difficulty carries within it the seeds of an equal or greater benefit. In the face of adversity ask yourself: “What’s good about this?”, “What can I learn from this?”, and “How can I benefit from this?”


A common method to develop the practice of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal, a concept that was made famous by Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book “Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude”. This exercise basically consists of writing down every day a list of three to ten things for which you are grateful; you can do this first thing in the morning or before going to bed at night. Another exercise you can try is to write a gratitude letter to a person who has exerted a positive influence in your life but whom you have not properly thanked. Some experts suggest that you set up a meeting with this person and read the letter to them face to face.

Last year millions of people took the challenge proposed by Will Bowen, a Kansas City minister, to go 21 days without complaining, criticizing, or gossiping. To help condition the participants to stop complaining, they each wore a purple No-Complaint wristband. Several authors in the self-improvement genre have suggested that people do something similar to help condition themselves to be constantly aware of the things in life that they’re grateful for.

A variation of the wristband concept is to create a gratitude charm bracelet, with either one meaningful charm or different charms representing the things you’re most grateful for. For example, you could have a charm shaped like a heart to symbolize your significant other, figurines to represent different family members, an apple to represent health, a dollar sign to symbolize abundance, a charm that represents your current profession or a future career, and maybe a charm that makes you laugh to represent humor and joy.


Once you become oriented toward looking for things to be grateful for, you will find that you begin to appreciate simple pleasures and things that you previously took for granted. Gratitude should not be just a reaction to getting what you want, but an all-the-time gratitude, the kind where you notice the little things and where you constantly look for the good even in unpleasant situations. Today, start bringing gratitude to your experiences, instead of waiting for a positive experience in order to feel grateful; in this way, you’ll be on your way toward becoming a master of gratitude.

Today’s article was written by by Marelisa Fabrega and is shared from the following website:

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Can You Make a Difference?

 There is no man living who isn't capable of doing more than he thinks he can Henry FordPOTENTIAL

In his book, The Americanization of Edward Bok, Edward Bok, one-time editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal, tells a story about his grandfather, who lived in Denmark. It seems the grandfather had been commissioned by the King of Denmark to lead a band of soldiers against pirates who were playing havoc with shipping along a certain coastal area. The elder Bok set up his headquarters on a lonely, rocky, desolate island just off the coast, and after a few years was able to clear the pirates out of the area.

Upon returning to the mainland Bok reported to the King. The King was very pleased and offered Bok anything he wanted. All he wanted, he told the King, was a plot of land on the island where he had just lived and fought for so many months. They told him the island was barren. Why would he want to live there? “I want to plant trees,” was Bok’s reply. “I want to make the island beautiful.” The King’s aides thought he was crazy. The island was constantly swept by storms and high winds. He would never be able to get a tree to grow there.

Bok, however, insisted, and the King granted him his wish. He went to live on the island, built a home, and finally was able to bring his wife to it. For years, they worked industriously, persistently, planting trees, shrubs, grass. Gradually the vegetation took hold, the island began to flourish. One morning they arose to hear birds singing. There had never been any birds on the island before.

Eventually the island became a showplace and now is visited by thousands of tourists each year. When he died the grandfather requested that the following words be inscribed on his tombstone: “Make you the world a bit more beautiful and better because you have been on it.”

But the story doesn’t end there. Edward Bok, the grandson, who had become an American citizen, believed that anyone who was able to do so should retire at 50 and spend the rest of his life making the world a more beautiful and better place to live. And he was as good as his word. At 50 he retired as editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal.

One day, while traveling around central Florida, he came upon Iron Mountain, elevation 324 ft. above sea level, the highest point in Florida. Immediately the thought hit him — why not repeat in America what his grandfather had done in the old country? He bought the site and set to work. Eventually he was more than successful. The place is called Mountain Lake Sanctuary, Lake Wales, Florida. Upon his death, Edward Bok willed it to the State of Florida, and it is now a major tourist attraction. Upon the younger Bok’s catafalque were the words: “Make you the world a bit more beautiful and better place because you have been in it.”

Bits & Pieces, March 31, 1994, pp. 17-20.

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The Difference Gratitude Makes…

Psalms 118:29 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.

How A Simple Act Of Gratitude Changed One Man’s Life – And Can Transform Yours Too

“Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have, you will not receive the things you want,” is what the voice in John Kralik’s head said to him on one New Year’s Day in Pasadena.

Rewinding a few years ago on January 9, 2010 I received a phone call that would change my life forever. I pulled into the parking lot at the Flint Center in Cupertino for an event and saw that I had a missed call and a voicemail from my aunt. I had the feeling in my bones that something was wrong. She said something happened to my father and I needed to get to the hospital. That was all the information I had; there was a million thoughts going through my mind.

My girlfriend drove back and as we were on the freeway I received the worst news possible from my sister. As she uttered the words I dropped my cell phone and felt a puddle of tears in my palms, she said my father passed away from a heart attack. When I arrived to the hospital his body was still warm and I couldn’t help to think he was going to wake up. My mother was 7,500 miles away in Afghanistan and my sisters and I were at a loss for words in the waiting room.

I didn’t expect the tragic event on January 9, I just had dinner with close friends at my father’s restaurant where he cooked us a meal the night before. For months after my life was spiraling in the wrong direction. I tweeted Tony Robbins and asked him what he recommended. He actually tweeted back a suggestion and I picked up a set of his tapes. Instead of getting what I wanted (which was to get my health in order), I got what I needed. My first experience with gratitude.

Have I always been thankful for everything in my life? Of course. But I never practiced gratitude until then. Recently, I stumbled on a book called A Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik. I don’t know how it got on my book shelve, almost as if it was meant to be there. I read the first 10 pages and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s about a guy whose life was a disaster. He was miserable, broke, overweight, and on his second divorce living in a crumby apartment in LA with no air conditioning. He was an attorney and he couldn’t afford to pay his employees their Christmas bonuses because his clients weren’t paying their bills on time — and sometimes not paying them at all.

John Kralik

John Kralik

It’s easy to complain about your life until you have someone else’s life to compare to. How did this guy survive? What did he do to overcome adversity? I wanted to know more about his journey so I read on. His story is about gratitude, but what did he have to be thankful for?

The premise is that John had an epiphany while he was hiking in the hills of LA on New Year’s Day. He decided that his goal was to write one thank you note each day for the next year, for a total of 365 thank you notes. He wanted to find a reason to be thankful and grateful every single day. Incredibly enough, there were things right under his nose to be thankful for that he hadn’t noticed.

I recently caught up with John to see how his life has evolved since the publishing of his book. There are countless studies about how practicing gratitude can improve you overall well-being. Nonetheless, John’s story has caught on fire; he’s written and received over 2,000 thank you notes to this day. John said that writing the thank you notes over the course of the year taught him to value the good things and created a discipline of positive focus. “Gratitude presses outwards and that creates good feelings in the universe. A lot of that comes back to you eventually,” he said.

Receiving a hand written thank you card delivers a special meaning, especially if you want to make an impression. John explains, “When you receive something from a machine, there’s inevitably a feeling that the machine generated it and it’s disposable. When a prospective employer or client or someone you’re trying to network with receives a thank you note as a courtesy that’s going to make you stand out. It’s going to create something around you that isn’t there and sets you apart. It’s going to give you a certain amount of peace and confidence that you have had a good life, and you have had a lot going for you.”

His story inspired me to think about the people who I should thank. I wrote my first thank you note to my better half:

Dear Dana,

 You are my source of inspiration. Thank you for driving me to become a better man, I hope through this I can become a better husband and father. You do so much for me out of the kindness of your heart, and for that I will always be grateful. We may be two different people, but combined our hearts fit perfectly together.



Expressing gratitude will give you positive emotions, but the purpose of writing the notes is because it’s the right thing to do. John says our natural tendency is to notice the 9 bad things that happened to us each day, but instead what if we focused on the one good thing? If you’re interested in practicing gratitude by writing thank you notes you should consider reading his book and putting the practice into play. Make it fun and challenge yourself to write 30 thank you notes in 30 days. I record mine in an excel spreadsheet to remember who I wrote to and what the specific message was. You’ll notice the more you write the better your notes will get.


John’s book is about someone who thought he didn’t have anything to be thankful for. It’s the story of how he started to notice those things. “If you write a book about the best in people, you connect with the best people,” he explains. To paraphrase Edmund Wilson, gratitude is one of those rare things you get more of by giving it away.

Today’s article was written by Omaid Homayun and is shared from the following website:

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Adoption…An Inspired Concept

Family is not defined by our genes, it is built and maintained through love Amelia G.

The subject of adoption is near and dear to my heart. The adoption of my youngest son and daughter has its own story – one that continues to this day. You can read about my adoption story in my book, A Glimpse of Heaven. However, today, I want to share someone else’s story with you as well. Adoption begins in the heart and that is where it needs to stay – I hope you enjoy today’s story!:

An Adoption Story That Started at Saks

On my many excursions into Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City over the years, I’ve bought countless pairs of shoes that brightened my mood, picked out dresses that (sometimes) flattered my figure, and turned over my credit card for too many cosmetics that I’d hoped would make me look like a fresher, prettier version of myself.

But one afternoon in October 2002, I walked out of the store with something more valuable than anything money could buy. I found hope in the unlikeliest of places after months of despair, thanks to a woman who decided to strike up a conversation with me in the store’s café.

It was a painful time for me. Married a little over two years, I’d suffered three devastating miscarriages in nine months and, at 42, was slowly coming to terms with the idea that I might never be able to have a child. Up until that point, I never really gave much thought to being a mother, and suddenly I could think of little else. My husband and I had been together for ten years before we decided to get married because neither of us was in a hurry to do so. My parents’ marriage had ended disastrously, leaving my mother in deteriorating health and dire financial circumstances. After her death a few years later, I vowed to maintain my independence, and I threw myself into my work as a freelance marketing consultant and fledgling writer. Motherhood just wasn’t part of the plan.

As my 40th birthday approached, I began, for the first time, to notice babies and their happy, smiling mothers wherever I went. I wished I could talk to my own mother about the yearning, hurt, and confusion I was experiencing.

On that fateful day, I’d been trudging around the city sleepwalking through meetings with clients while the voice inside me cried out, “It’s too late! You missed your chance to be a mother! You wanted an all-consuming career, and now you’ve got one.”

A light mist turned into a heavy rain. Perfect, I thought. Just the thing to match my mood. With an hour to kill before my next appointment, I ducked into Saks, hoping to distract myself with some retail therapy. When scouring the sale racks did little to lift my spirits, I decided to head to the ninth-floor café.

An elegantly dressed, slightly older woman wearing a tweed blazer and oversize pearls was seated a few stools away at the half-empty counter.

“Would you like to see a picture of my daughter?” she asked me.

“Sure,” I said, not at all sure why I was remotely interested.

She reached across the counter and handed me a photo of a smiling Chinese girl. The child was about seven years old and was wearing a Snow White costume.

“That’s Melanie. She’s in the first grade,” she said. I could hear the motherly pride in her voice.

“She’s pretty,” I said. “I love her costume.”

We were still chatting when our salads arrived. My new acquaintance told me she was exhausted, having been up half the night worrying over the news that some boys on her daughter’s bus had teased her about the “funny-smelling” Chinese snacks she had in her lunch box.

The woman explained that she felt strongly about teaching her daughter about Chinese customs and maintaining ties to her heritage.

“What made you decide to adopt her?” I asked, uncertain whether I’d ventured into too-personal territory.

“I didn’t want work to be my whole life,” she said.

I’m not sure if she saw the tears welling up in my eyes as I replied, “I don’t either, but I’m afraid it’s too late.”

“I was 51 when I adopted Melanie,” she said with more than a hint of reassurance in her voice. “And it’s the most rewarding, exciting thing I’ve ever done.”

When our checks came, she handed me her business card, and I finally learned her name—and in that minute, I saw a happier, more fulfilled version of myself. Jill Totenberg was a public relations consultant and a happy, loving adoptive parent. Could I ever hope to have that kind of life?

That night, I dreamed of my mother, remembering that she once had wanted to adopt a child from Vietnam, but my father hadn’t felt the same way. It was the first time she’d ever appeared in my dreams. I woke up knowing I could be—and would be—a mother. I also knew how that was going to happen.

A few days later, in the car on our way to dinner, I told my husband that I wanted to look into adopting a girl from China. “You’re enough for me,” he said. “But if you want to find out more about that, we can.”

In early 2003, we registered with an adoption agency and began an 18-month “paper pregnancy.” During that time, I kept in touch with Jill, e-mailing her occasionally. I promised to visit so I could meet her daughter, but as often happens, life got in the way. Still, the little girl in the Snow White costume and her mother were never far away in my thoughts.

When my husband and I returned from China with our nine-month-old daughter, Madeline Jing-Mei, in November 2005, Jill was one of the first people I e-mailed. “I did it!” I wrote. “I’m a mother, and she’s beautiful!”

“Congratulations,” she wrote back. “You’re embarking on the greatest adventure of your life.”

We recently reconnected on Facebook, and I reminded her that meeting her was the single most important encounter I’d ever had with a stranger. “I can’t imagine my life without Madeline. She’s the happiest child, and I adore her. I would have never really thought about adopting a baby from China if I hadn’t met you that day,” I told her. “You changed my life.”

“You were just ready to hear what I had to say,” said Jill. “It was meant to be.”

Today’s story was written by Diane Clehane and is shared from the following website:

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The Stories That Bind Us

In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future. -- Alex Haley

I hit the breaking point as a parent a few years ago. It was the week of my extended family’s annual gathering in August, and we were struggling with assorted crises. My parents were aging; my wife and I were straining under the chaos of young children; my sister was bracing to prepare her preteens for bullying, sex and cyberstalking.

Sure enough, one night all the tensions boiled over. At dinner, I noticed my nephew texting under the table. I knew I shouldn’t say anything, but I couldn’t help myself and asked him to stop.

Ka-boom! My sister snapped at me to not discipline her child. My dad pointed out that my girls were the ones balancing spoons on their noses. My mom said none of the grandchildren had manners. Within minutes, everyone had fled to separate corners.

Later, my dad called me to his bedside. There was a palpable sense of fear I couldn’t remember hearing before.

“Our family’s falling apart,” he said.

“No it’s not,” I said instinctively. “It’s stronger than ever.”But lying in bed afterward, I began to wonder: Was he right? What is the secret sauce that holds a family together? What are the ingredients that make some families effective, resilient, happy?

It turns out to be an astonishingly good time to ask that question. The last few years have seen stunning breakthroughs in knowledge about how to make families, along with other groups, work more effectively.

Myth-shattering research has reshaped our understanding of dinnertime, discipline and difficult conversations. Trendsetting programs from Silicon Valley and the military have introduced techniques for making teams function better.

The only problem: most of that knowledge remains ghettoized in these subcultures, hidden from the parents who need it most. I spent the last few years trying to uncover that information, meeting families, scholars and experts ranging from peace negotiators to online game designers to Warren Buffett’s bankers.

After a while, a surprising theme emerged. The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.

I first heard this idea from Marshall Duke, a colorful psychologist at Emory University. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Duke was asked to help explore myth and ritual in American families.

“There was a lot of research at the time into the dissipation of the family,” he told me at his home in suburban Atlanta. “But we were more interested in what families could do to counteract those forces.”

Around that time, Dr. Duke’s wife, Sara, a psychologist who works with children with learning disabilities, noticed something about her students.

“The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges,” she said.

Her husband was intrigued, and along with a colleague, Robyn Fivush, set out to test her hypothesis. They developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions.

Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001, and taped several of their dinner table conversations. They then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests the children had taken, and reached an overwhelming conclusion. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

“We were blown away,” Dr. Duke said.

And then something unexpected happened. Two months later was Sept. 11. As citizens, Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush were horrified like everyone else, but as psychologists, they knew they had been given a rare opportunity: though the families they studied had not been directly affected by the events, all the children had experienced the same national trauma at the same time. The researchers went back and reassessed the children.

“Once again,” Dr. Duke said, “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

Why does knowing where your grandmother went to school help a child overcome something as minor as a skinned knee or as major as a terrorist attack?

“The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” Dr. Duke said.

Psychologists have found that every family has a unifying narrative, he explained, and those narratives take one of three shapes.

First, the ascending family narrative: “Son, when we came to this country, we had nothing. Our family worked. We opened a store. Your grandfather went to high school. Your father went to college. And now you. …”

Second is the descending narrative: “Sweetheart, we used to have it all. Then we lost everything.”

“The most healthful narrative,” Dr. Duke continued, “is the third one. It’s called the oscillating family narrative: ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’ ”

Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.

Leaders in other fields have found similar results. Many groups use what sociologists call sense-making, the building of a narrative that explains what the group is about.

Jim Collins, a management expert and author of “Good to Great,” told me that successful human enterprises of any kind, from companies to countries, go out of their way to capture their core identity. In Mr. Collins’s terms, they “preserve core, while stimulating progress.” The same applies to families, he said.

Mr. Collins recommended that families create a mission statement similar to the ones companies and other organizations use to identify their core values.

The military has also found that teaching recruits about the history of their service increases their camaraderie and ability to bond more closely with their unit.

Cmdr. David G. Smith is the chairman of the department of leadership, ethics and law at the Naval Academy and an expert in unit cohesion, the Pentagon’s term for group morale. Until recently, the military taught unit cohesion by “dehumanizing” individuals, Commander Smith said. Think of the bullying drill sergeants in “Full Metal Jacket” or “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

But these days the military spends more time building up identity through communal activities. At the Naval Academy, Commander Smith advises graduating seniors to take incoming freshmen (or plebes) on history-building exercises, like going to the cemetery to pay tribute to the first naval aviator or visiting the original B-1 aircraft on display on campus.

Dr. Duke recommended that parents pursue similar activities with their children. Any number of occasions work to convey this sense of history: holidays, vacations, big family get-togethers, even a ride to the mall. The hokier the family’s tradition, he said, the more likely it is to be passed down. He mentioned his family’s custom of hiding frozen turkeys and canned pumpkin in the bushes during Thanksgiving so grandchildren would have to “hunt for their supper,” like the Pilgrims.

“These traditions become part of your family,” Dr. Duke said.

Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply “talking through problems,” as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.

The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.

Today’s article was written by Bruce Feiler and is shared from the following website:

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