"Gratefulness is the key to a happy life, the key that we hold in our own two hands. Because if we are not grateful, no matter how much we have we will not be happy because we'll always want to have something else or to have more of the same. But, if we're grateful, even though we have very little, or grateful even for what other people might consider problems or difficulties, great challenges in our life -- health challenges or professional challenges or whatever handicaps -- if we are grateful we will not only overcome these challenges. But we will be that much more alive and that much more creative through our grateful attitude. In other words, gratefulness activates our lives."
-- Brother David Steindl-Rast
Cultivating our capacity for gratitude is one of the core spiritual traits advocated across all the great traditions. Being grateful can restore our perspective, when the slings and arrows of life temporarily bend us out of shape. To reinforce this focus, some people maintain a "gratitude journal" in which they record various things they are thankful for. It can allow us to reframe our experience. Noting his sources of gratitude has long been a practice of David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk and popular author, who has devoted many years to promoting this simple discipline.
Because it can powerfully influence our perceptions, gratefulness has recently been the subject of fascinating scientific research. We hear from Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California / Davis, who finds that people exercise more when they keep gratitude journals. They also report being less bothered by everyday aches and pains and enjoy more restful sleep.
(Portions of this program were previously featured in Humankind Program 49.)