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Home » All, Awe, Gratitude, Habits, Happiness Exercises, _1 Positive Experiences

A Daily Dose of Awe and Gratitude

By on March 3, 2007 – 12:38 pm  14 Comments

David J. Pollay, MAPP '06, is a co-founder of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA). David has an Economics degree from Yale University and has held leadership positions at Yahoo!, MasterCard, Global Payments and AIESEC. He is an Executive Coach who specializes in business relationships. He is also an author and keynote speaker known for his best-selling books, The Law of the Garbage Truck (how to navigate negativity) and The 3 Promises (how to create personal fulfillment every day). David's articles are here. For permission to reprint David's articles, please contact him.



How much of your day do you live in response to requests from others? 

Most of us wake up thinking about how we are going to meet obligations and fulfill promises to other people.  We begin our day in response mode and remain that way until it’s time to go to bed.  In contrast, philosophers, religious leaders, and teachers have taught us for thousands of years to begin our day by expressing and feeling gratitude for everything and everyone we have in our lives.

Start with Awe  

For twelve years I have begun my day with the same positive ritual.  I wake up and head for the nearest window.  I open the curtain and look outside.  I begin by observing something in the environment that fascinates me.  I immerse myself in the wonder and awe of something that I cannot explain; this first step in my morning ritual reminds me that the world is much bigger than my life and my concerns.  

University of Virginia Psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of the Happiness Hypothesis, and Dacher Keltner, University of California-Berkeley Psychology professor, wrote about awe in Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman’s book, Character Strengths and Virtue, “People consistently report that experiences of awe and elevation have profound outcomes, motivating self-improvement, personal change, altruistic intentions and actions, and the devotion to others and the larger community.” 

My Mom grew up in Maine and often reflects on the beauty of nature.  She once said to me, “Think of the beauty of maple trees.  The same force that makes sap run up a tree from its roots to its trunk, against gravity, is the same force that resides inside of you.”  Mom made her point by gently poking me in the gut and saying, “It’s right there; connect to it.” 

No matter where I am I start my day with a moment of awe.  When I’m at home, I look at the ocean.  When I’m at a hotel, I look at tall buildings.  When I’m in Maine, I look at trees.  Wherever I am there is always something interesting to draw my attention.  Each time I look out my window I appreciate the fact that the universe does not revolve around me; it includes me.  

Proceed to Gratitude

The second step of my morning ritual focuses on gratitude.  I say everything for which I am grateful.  My list includes being grateful for a new day, the sleep I had the night before, my health, my family (by name), my close friends (by name), my key supporters in business (by name), and important opportunities professionally and personally.  I make it a habit of visualizing the people and things as I say them; I want to keep these images fresh in my mind. 

Psychology professor at Eastern Washington University Phillip Watkins and his colleagues found in their research that “…grateful individuals have a sense of abundance.  Grateful individuals appreciate the common everyday pleasures of life…grateful individuals appreciate the contribution of others to their well-being.” 

My morning ritual of gratitude and awe helps me transition from a night of sleep to a new day of possibility.  Huston Smith, professor of Religion and Philosophy at Syracuse University, wrote that “a ritual can smooth life’s transition as can perhaps nothing else.  But it also serves another function; namely to intensify appreciation and crown man’s joy with celebration.” 

Every day is a new opportunity.  What would happen if you started each day with a little awe and gratitude?  This positive ritual could change your life.
 


 
References

Haidt, J. (2006). The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. New York: Basic Books.

Peterson, C. & Seligman, M. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Smith, H. (1970). Religions of Man. HarperCollins.


 
Images
Sugar maple leaves courtesy of massmarrier
Tapping a sugar maple courtesy of Kyle MacDonald

14 Comments »

  • Chris says:

    David,

    Thanks so much for such a powerful message. One of my areas of focus lately has been about developing a daily ritual for myself. So far it involves a little prayer, some meditation, and asking myself the question, “what am I excited for today?” Integrating some gratitude will complete the ritual. I have a great window for it too!! Thanks again.

  • Margaret says:

    David, thank you for sharing your daily ritual! Your very actions continue to inspire me! I especially like how you specifically name the people you are grateful for — it’s seems too shallow to just say “my family, my friends, my colleagues” etc. I’m naming David Pollay, right now, as someone I am grateful for! Warm regards, Margaret

  • Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your post Chris! Your daily ritual sounds great! Let me know how adding an additional focus on gratitude makes a difference for you.

    Best to you,

    David

  • Hi Margaret,

    Thanks Margaret for such a warm and kind post! I sure appreciate it! I also try to visualize the people I am grateful for as I say their names. And right now I can see you; thanks Margaret!

    Hugs,

    David

  • Editor S.M. says:

    DPollay’s article is reprinted in the Good News Network, an excellent place for news to enthuse.

    http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/content/view/1839/35/

  • […] I’m a firm believer in the power of creating one’s day first thing in the morning through visualization. I like to begin my morning visualization after I have spent a few minutes expressing awe and gratitude through being mindful of my thoughts, feelings, and surroundings – similar to David Pollay’s morning routine. After I have primed my brain in that way I am better able to settle my thoughts and concentrate on creating my day, one step at a time. This visualization has proved to be remarkably effective and has become an enjoyable habit, but I decided to experiment with it after talking with my sister. […]

  • […] A Daily Dose of Awe and Gratitude by David J. Pollay (3-3-07):  Pollay says, “For twelve years I have begun my day with the same positive ritual.  I wake up and head for the nearest window.  I open the curtain and look outside.  I begin by observing something in the environment that fascinates me…. The second step of my morning ritual focuses on gratitude.  I say everything for which I am grateful.” Pollay draws on research by Jonathan Haidt, Christopher Peterson, Martin Seligman, Philip Watkins, and Huston Smith. […]

  • Hi David.

    I am new in membership to this organization and i was trully blessed by your article on “A Daily Dose of Awe and Gratitude”. I know for me it has given me a reson to make the daily Awes and Gratitude acknowlegements more consistent. The Awes help keep me connected to everything around me. The most unnoticable thing can bring about an awe that will bless the begining of my day. Being grateful for things and people daily helps me to remeber that i have the ability to be influenced and influence positively on a daily basis. These morning reflections help me to create a better day for myself and the people I come in contact with.

    I plan to read more of your articles.

    Thanks, Ghislaine Small

  • Hi Ghislaine!

    It is so great to hear from you! I am so glad my article was meaningful to you. And welcome to IPPA. Congratulations to you for committing to start your day so positively and confidently. I will think of you tomorrow during my morning ritual. I look forward to hearing from you again!

    Best to you,

    David

  • Hi David – It’s great to find little pieces of inspiration scattered around the internet. Thanks for sharing the life you live and the way you think about it.

    It seems in this modern culture that discussions about thinking the thoughts that we do are taboo, or awkward. Thanks also for bringing this discussion a little further from the esoteric with this article. Here’s to us, spreading awe and gratitude all over the world! one step at a time!

    Like Ghislaine, I’ll be following your work.

    ~!cassandra

  • John Rhodes says:

    wowowo! ==wow— thanks for the awe and gratitude notes – I always use the sun rise in the morn as I drink my coffee– I am in absolute awe of the sun – imagine ! it is 93 million miles away – spinning in space and boiling bright – we are in an elliptic around the sun = going about a million miles an hour – yet — YET —-the sun rises each morning at precisely the right time at precisely the right place – EVERY MORN == W/O FAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AMAZINGAMAZINGAMAZING – THANKS FOR THAT – there must be a power greater than ourselves controlling the whole thing – there must be – wowowoowwo == I am so gratful for just being alive right here right now – thansthanks— the earth spins on it axis at 1000 miles an hour – yet the sunrise is in the right place at the right time every day – wowo and thanks – I will meditate on the sun tomorow morn – get a warm comfortable bed for a good nites sleep – you spend 1/3 of your life sleeping = soooooooooooooo get a great bed and bedding – for sure – good luck to all – Love John R==P.S. anyone here from Maine ? say hello to Steve Abbott for me – he is running for Governor and wish him luck – thanks

  • serah W Kasa says:

    Thankyou Mr. David .I totally agree with your article on a daily does of awe and gratitude and I also include the names of my client that I see each day at the clinic.It came to a point where it has reach more then 100 so I decided to name the color of the note book that I kept the names.Thanks for leting the whole world know .

  • Hi Sera,

    It’s so good to hear from you. It is beautiful that you have 100 names on your list. I LOVE how you now refer to your colored notebook.

    Thank you for your post.

    Stay in touch,
    -David

    http://www.davidpollay.com

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