Gratefulness Makes Us Happy

“It is not happiness that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy."
Brother David Steindl-Rast

There is pure magic in a smile. Perhaps you’ve sensed that. You can try it now. What happens when you bring a smile to your face? Do the muscles around your eyes soften a bit? Maybe you become more aware of a lightness of being as you breathe in. Does your list of tasks for the day seem just a bit less daunting?

We’re still reading The Book of Joy, and in it Douglas Abrams explains that UC Davis Professors Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough have found that “people who focus on gratitude by keeping a list of what they were grateful for exercised more often, had fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives, and were more positive about the week ahead compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events." Abrams goes on to say that research has shown that smiling stimulates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress, as well as a cocktail of neurotransmitters that act as antidepressants, stimulate the reward center of the brain, and kill pain. What does all that look like in real life? After a dear friend completed an Iron Man Triathlon (a super-human feat involving swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running a marathon), he explained that he got through the marathon by smiling. This small, simple act has tremendous power!

And the icing on the cake? Smiling makes the people who see us smiling feel better, too. It’s contagious!

In a gratitude meditation practice, we make a mental list of what we are grateful for, experiences, things, people… the big and the little. And then we rest in the sense of abundance. And you just may find yourself smiling : )

Every weekly CMP session is free and open to the public, suitable for newbies (we’re all beginners!) and those with long-established practices.