Gratitude is one of the most powerful energies in the Universe. This energy can be experienced as a state of spiritual fullness. I’ve often heard gratitude described as having a full heart, a feeling of being satiated, or of having enough.
A daily practice of giving thanks and appreciation keeps our focus on the blessings in our lives. Thankful thoughts bio-chemically bathe our bodies in a soothing potion, a potion so powerful it can raise our consciousness to see beyond our perception of lack. Riding the current of gratitude is the number one best antidote for dissatisfaction and it doesn’t hurt your pocketbook either!
Dr. Michael McCollough, of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Dr. Robert Emmons, of the University of California at Davis, say their initial research indicates that gratitude plays a significant role in a person’s sense of well-being, including financial well-being.
People who practice gratitude as a daily discipline place less importance on material goods and are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated. They are less concerned about keeping up with the Joneses.
Why is this so important? Because it is common for Americans to live beyond their means. Our focus is on “more.” It seems as if we’ve become disconnected from our internal gauge of what makes us feel full, satiated or when we have enough. Credit cards haven’t helped, giving us the illusion we have more to spend than we actually do. Author and journalist, Mary Hunt tells us, “Never before in the history of our country has so much meant so little to so many. We suffer from possession overload. The more we have the more we want. The more we want, the more it takes to feel satisfied.”
Books have been written on the large lifestyles of Americans. McMansions (large homes taking up most of the lot with little to no yard) are changing the face of quaint suburban neighborhoods, like the one I live in. All the while our nation’s people are in a negative savings balance and growing revolving credit card debt.
These larger lifestyles come with a price tag besides a dollar sign. The price is pressure to make a certain income to support payments on more stuff. This can result in living paycheck to paycheck without being able to save adequately for retirement, emergencies or even job loss.
Working more to finance stuff can result in less quality time with family and friends. This causes relationship stress, feelings of interpersonal isolation and a disconnection from the people that are most important in our lives. Over time it can lead to major regrets, like not being emotionally available to those that mean the most to you.
One of the biggest price tags of a larger lifestyle can be loss of freedom. This loss of freedom can look like “having” to stay in a certain income bracket because of expenses or an inability to take a year off for a life transition. Many mid-lifers feel this squeeze when they want to leave a corporate job in order to pursue an inner calling or passion that leads to a new type of work.
The thing is, more stuff doesn’t equate to greater levels of life satisfaction.
Dr. Edward Diener, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois has researched life satisfaction factors of people from various cultures, including Americans. Diener found that people living in poverty report low levels of life satisfaction as do a high percentage of people living in affluence. The middle class reported the greatest levels of life satisfaction, particularly those who have risen from poverty as well as the people of Ireland, a “count your blessings” culture.
“Once basic human needs are met, a lot more money doesn’t make a lot more happiness,” says Dan Gilbert, a psychology professor at Harvard University and the author of the new book Stumbling on Happiness. As for a group of multimillionaires from the Forbes 400 list? They weren’t much happier than the average suburbanite.
As for non-financial benefits of practicing gratitude, McCollough and Emmon’s research found that gratitude plays a role in a person’s ability to bounce back from life’s little tumbles. Persons practicing daily gratitude have higher levels of energy, determination and enthusiasm and less depression and stress.
Practicing regular gratitude boosts the immune system. Dr. Lisa Aspinwall at the University of Utah completed research on the immune systems of healthy, first-year law students. Her findings suggested that students who were optimistic maintained higher numbers of blood cells that protect the immune system compared with their pessimistic classmates.
I leave you with a quote from Sarah Ban Breathnach:
“…both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend…when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present…love, health, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure…the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.”