Monday, November 26, 2012

Food for Thought

I've been thinking about gratitude a lot lately (for obvious reasons) and what a huge role it plays in happiness. I was taking a class last week at Yoga Vida with Heather, one of my favorite teachers, and she mentioned that it can be said that "gratitude is rooted in our incompleteness."  It comes rushing in when we soften into the reality that we cannot be everything and do everything on our own. We need friends. We need family. We need co-workers. We need people to love us. But it can be super scary to admit that kind of vulnerability, so most of us (especially us Type A New Yorkers) just go around trying to do everything on our own.

I was reading a study published by The University of California, Berkley, and it came up with a multitude of definitions for gratitude from a variety of sources, including the following:

1. The object of gratitude is other-directed—persons, as well as to impersonal (nature) or nonhuman sources (e.g., God, animals, the cosmos; Solomon, 1977; Teigen, 1997).

2. Although a variety of life experiences can elicit feelings of gratitude, prototypically gratitude stems from the perception of a positive personal outcome, not necessarily deserved or earned, that is due to the actions of another person.” (Bertocci & Millard, 1963, p. 389).

3. “ estimate of gain coupled with the judgment that someone else is responsible for that gain."

4. As an emotion, gratitude is an attribution-dependent state (Weiner, 1985) that results from a two-step cognitive process: (a) recognizing that one has obtained a positive outcome, and (b) recognizing that there is an external source for this positive outcome.

Seems all the definitions agree on one thing: gratitude is centered around external sources (i.e. other people). Also? The study developed a lot of fascinating, scientific findings, but I'll break it down for you: a grateful person is a happier person. Sounds like good enough reason to me to start letting more people in, focusing on what we have instead of what we've lost, and being happier for it. xo