“I will never talk about joy without talking about gratitude… I have never interviewed a single person who talks about the capacity to really experience and soften into joy who does not actively practice gratitude.”
-Dr. Brene Brown
THE LEARNING LAB ON GRATITUDE
This Learning Lab experience illustrates how gratitude improves overall quality of life, both mentally and physically. We discuss how applying mindfulness to gratitude and awe can enhance these effects through strengthening the neural pathways of positive experience and reflection. We reflect on positive experiences together, engage in gratitude practice, and experience strategies to improve overall resilience. Participants will leave with a wealth of strategies and resources to enhance the positive effects of gratitude and better appreciate the daily experience of living joyfully.
Reflections from Participants:
“Gratitude feels like a waterfall flowing through my spirit washing away the grit of ingratitude.”
“My gratitude so far has been like a waterfall flooding me with needed hope and refreshing coolness in hot, stressful times. The water represents a new chance to begin again each day.”
“My experience with mindful gratitude is a morning glory- long shut, but now gently opened. It may narrow, but it will, with care, remain at least partially opened forever.”
My Own Experience:
“No thing has overtaken me: love, sadness, regret, joy. And yet. I am overtaken with the richness of this life. The depth, the velvety surface, the diamond cut edges.”
Oct. 2014, journal entry by Brandi Lust
“I am thankful for blue skies full of clouds, starry nights, full moons, morning haze, beautiful sunrises, dark birds in the bright sky, tears, poignant songs, perfect words.”
Dec. 2014, journal entry by Brandi Lust
“Beautiful moments: seeing the cloud-swirled sun peeking through the blue and white in a fuzzy haze, seeing the interwoven roots of a riverside tree tangle on the banks and reach to the water, seeing a teacher love in the face of a difficult student.”
Mar. 2015, journal entry by Brandi Lust
More About Gratitude:
Robert Emmons, a renowned expert in the field, defines gratitude as an affirmation “that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received” and that “the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves” (“What is Gratitude”). The sources might be other people, society, the time and place one was born, or even a higher power- whatever one may believe that to include.
Gratitude practice includes:
Relishing good experiences in daily life
Recognizing life challenges as opportunities for growth
Seeing the differences between what one has been given and the difficulties that you have avoided and others may face
Building on these characteristics and definitions, gratitude is more than saying “thank you,” and it is more than recognizing when something exceptional happens and appreciating it. Gratitude is about experiencing the awe of the everyday human experience- the good and the bad. When one is able to do this, gratitude will naturally follow.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, renowned mindfulness teacher Jack Kornfield eloquently stated gratitude as follows,
We’ve been given the extraordinary privilege of incarnating as human beings — and of course the human incarnation entails the 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows, as it says in the Tao Te Ching — but with it we have the privilege of the lavender color at sunset, the taste of a tangerine in our mouth, and the almost unbearable beauty of life around us, along with its troubles. It keeps recreating itself. We can either be lost in … the “body of fear,” which brings suffering to us and to others — or we can bring the quality of love and appreciation, which I would call gratitude, to life.
When I began my daily mindfulness practice a year and a half ago, I also began daily journals reflecting upon my practice and my life experiences. These books have become some of my most beloved possessions. I have used them in my writing to capture a moment in time that has passed, and I have used them to gain a new perspective when I was unsure which way to more forward.
They are a record written in my most personal moments, and yet strangely, they are also a source of objectivity for me. There are moments when I go back and review the pages to find kernels of wisdom I need at the present moment or to gain a sense of “what it was really like” when I feel like a time was particularly “good” or “bad” in my life.
My journaling has changed over time. My research on the benefits of gratitude evolved my writing to include more positive experiences. In short summary, individuals with a gratitude practice have more positive emotional experiences overall and live seven to nine years longer on average (Graham).
Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” … It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision – it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.
And so is the beginning of a journey together.
I remember quite vividly and with great reverence my first best friend. I was in seventh grade when we met. The first time I went to her house a few weeks later, we walked to a creek and searched for rocks that we could wash and admire together. It was with great relief and surprise that I realized I had found a kindred spirit- a lover of rocks and the magic of the world to give them to us.