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To be happy… be grateful.

Brother David Steindle-Rast

Happy New Years!

So goes the annual blessing. But we hardly know what it means to be happy. In comes Brother Steindle-Rast, known as a kind of gratefulness mystic. Zach Brittle writes that “Steindle-Rast gently argues that grateful living comes from an awareness that ‘every moment is a given moment.’ Every moment is worthy of gratitude. An abundance of gratitude translates into less fear and violence in the world. More contentment. Less scarcity. Maybe this is too mystical for you.”

Brittle asks,

Do you ‘give thanks’ before meals? If so, to whom? Or to what? Does it matter? If you don’t give thanks, why not?

Have you ever really thought about gratitude? About gratefulness? About thanksgiving? I mean, really thought about it?

Why not take a moment to reflect on these questions.


The Science of Gratitude

Brittle shares a little about the growing research on the science and practice of gratitude:

“Recent studies have shown that people who consistently practice gratitude have stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure. They have higher levels of positive emotions like joy, optimism, and happiness. They’re more inclined to “pay it forward” with generosity and compassion…

Gratitude is relational. It shifts our focus from ourselves to one another. Gratitude requires – actually invites – us to abandon our narcissism and remember that we are not alone. That reminder is a gift. Receive that gift and be thankful for it. The fact that you are not alone means that you can experience empathy, intimacy, and love…

The thing about gratitude is that it’s easy. All you have to do is say “Thank you for __________.” At first it may be hard to fill in the blank. But if you make it a habit, it becomes just that. Here’s a trick: Set an alarm on your phone or your watch or whatever, and when it goes off, send a quick note of thanks to your partner. See how long it takes them to notice.

They will notice. Everybody likes to be thanked. No one in the history of ever said, “Please don’t thank me, it makes me feel terrible.” Being appreciated feels great. It increases our sense of worth and value. And it’s contagious. I guarantee you that if you work gratitude into your relationship – even secretly – it will come back to you. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll feel happier and healthier.”

To read the entire article by Zach Brittle, see “G is for Gratitude.”

What you can do a little differently this year

So this year, as you give and receive those “happy new years” blessings”, give yourself permission to become a gratitude mystic. You can begin by giving thanks before your meal. Listen again to Brother Steindle-Rast’s TED Talk above, and begin to hear yourself say “thank you” more often; let yourself give thanks again… and again.

We find ourselves in good company when we find the nexus of gratitude, as the Apostle Paul implores us to “give thanks in all circumstances,” and of course, on the night before his crucifixion, Jesus last act before death was to break bread, give thanks, and eat with His best friends. We find in Jesus one who is both the source and destination of our gratefulness.

May you find Him in your appreciation, and discover the One who made you for Himself.

This my friends, is more enigma than dogma.

Happy New Years!