Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (from Random House in October ...Read More
Gratitude and Gladness
Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness about something you have been given. Gladness is a more general sense of feeling pleased, rewarded, delighted, or happy about something, without it necessarily being a gift. Much of the time these two sweet feelings form a blend, so we’ll explore them together here. Gratitude, gladness, and related feelings like appreciation may seem so homey and Hallmark cardish that they’re easy to dismiss, but studies in fact show that cultivating them has lasting and important benefits, including lifting your mood, increasing satisfaction with life, and building resilience.
Technically, taking in the good is the deliberate internalization of positive experience in implicit memory. It involves four simple steps:
H Notice feelings of gratitude or gladness that are already present in your mind. Perhaps there is a background sense of being glad about where you live, or you’re pleased that your child is in a good mood today. As you go about your day, be particularly attentive to any feelings of gratitude or gladness that naturally arise. Also create an experience of gratitude or gladness by look- ing for things to feel grateful for or glad about. They could be seemingly small or simple. Perhaps something nice happened recently, or you have enough food, or you have a friend who likes you. You could feel grateful for a pet, flowers blooming, good fortune, helping hands, or the gift of life itself. Reflect in similar ways about your past and future. Find things to feel grateful for or glad about in the lives of others. Help the knowing of these facts become experiences of gratitude and gladness.
E Open to gratitude and gladness. Explore what these experiences are like, and keep them going. Gently help them become as rich and intense as possible, filling your whole body. Open to related feelings such as joy, ease, or fulfillment. Embody gratitude and gladness by smiling, bouncing up and down in delight, softening your face, or reaching your arms out to the world.
A Let gratitude and gladness sink into you. As you give your mind to gratitude and gladness, let yourself feel content, that there is already plenty for you in this moment, and that you don’t need to chase after or hold on to anything more.
L Be aware of gratitude and gladness and feelings of disappointment or loss. Keep making gratitude and gladness more prominent, and if you get carried away by the negative mate- rial, drop it from awareness. Sense that gratitude and glad- ness are connecting with any disappointment or loss. Imagine that some of the many things you feel grateful for or glad about are showering down into and gradually filling any emptiness inside. Perhaps gratitude and gladness are touching young parts of you that felt unhappy. Then, when you want, let go of any negative material and stay with the sense of gratitude and glad- ness. A few times over the next hour, a dozen or more seconds at a time, be aware of only neutral or positive material—such as a sense of gratitude and gladness—while also bringing to mind a neutral trigger of disappointment or loss.