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Home » All, Gratitude, Happiness Exercises, Pathway 3 "Meaning", Positive Feelings, _1 Positive Experiences

Increase Your Happiness. Build Gratitude Chains™ in Your Life.

By on December 2, 2007 – 12:01 am  26 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.



Daisy chain

Daisy chain

Everything good that happens in this world is the result of a chain of events.  No matter the size, each event has a history of activity.  Unfortunately, most of us are unaware of the many good chains in our lives. 
 
Consider the last time you opened a can of beans.  Did you think about who planted them, picked them, packed them, shipped them, stocked them, and sold them to you?  Here’s the response I most often get when I ask that question, “ahhh, no.”  We just open the can, throw the beans on our plate, pop them in the microwave, grab a fork, and start eating them as soon as the plate is put on the table.  We don’t see the chain, we just see the beans.
 
My mom knows about beans, and she understands the chain:  Mom picked beans growing up in Maine.  During the summer Mom and her sister would walk down the hill from their home to the Kennebec River, pay ten cents for someone to ferry them across the river in a rowboat, and then head for the bus that would take them to the farm where the beans were grown.  Mom would spend all day in the hot sun picking string beans, earning ten dollars per week.  Then the beans were washed, packed, and shipped to nearby grocery stores.
 
So when Mom sits down to eat string beans, she appreciates the chain.  Her awareness of all the people and effort that it takes to get beans from the farm to her plate makes her feel grateful.  And that’s a good thing.  Gratitude is one of the most potent psychological contributors to happiness.  

Robert Emmons, psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, demonstrated in his research that grateful people are happier.  In his new book, Thanks!: How the new science of gratitude can make you happier, Emmons wrote, “Our groundbreaking research has shown that grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism, and that the practice of gratitude as a discipline protects a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness.”  

The challenge then is for us to find ways of becoming more grateful.  One powerful way to increase your gratitude is by increasing the number of what I call “Gratitude Chains” in your life.  Gratitude Chains are made up of links of appreciation for what contributes to the people and things we care about.  Here are the four keys to building Gratitude Chains. 
 
Cultivate Awareness

Everyday look around you and take note of what you value.  What and who do you appreciate in your life?  Write down what you observe (i.e., your spouse, your children, your job, your daily meals, your friends, your country, your car, your home, the customer service you receive, the coffee you drink, etc.).  
 
Cultivate Curiosity

Learn more about each person or item on your list.  How do these people do what they do each day?  What contributes to these important things in your life?  Ask questions, study, and research.  Do whatever you have to do in order to better understand what and whom you treasure.
 
Cultivate Memory

You feel grateful only for what you remember.  Practice recalling the most important people and things you care about in your life.  Recite them in the morning.  Add them to your prayers.  Reflect on them each day.  Thank them.
 
Link Your Gratitude Chains Together

There is power in the Gratitude Chain.  The more we know about the people and things that matter to us in our lives, the more likely we will feel grateful.  View your life as Gratitude Chains linked together.  The gratitude you feel in one part of your life will connect to and energize the other areas.  And remember all it takes is a can of beans and your Gratitude Chain to brighten your day.
 
My wife Dawn told me recently that she plans to plant a garden with our little girls, Ariela (4) and Eliana (5).  Dawn wants to carry forward the Gratitude Chain in our family.  And Dawn called my mom to tell her what she intends to plant first:  Beans.
 

 


 

Reference

Emmons, R. (2007) Thanks!: How the new science of gratitude can make you happier. Boston: Houghton Mifflan Company.

Images
Daisy chain courtesy of MachismoTango

26 Comments »

  • Take a look at Derrick Carpenter’s recent article on Positive Psychology News Daily for another powerful way of triggering and amplifying your gratitude in life.

    http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/derrick-carpenter/20071122500

  • Chris says:

    Thanks David for another powerful reminder of the importance of gratitude!

    And what a wonderful metaphor from your mother. Please keep the stories coming. I learn a lot every time I read them.

    I’m off to cut a Christmas Tree today. I’ll be interested to find out who planted them, and to say thanks.

  • Angus says:

    Terrific Dave – I just love the simplicity of this, you honed a lot down to a great essence, and I really appreciate the effort in that. I also think your article is a great ‘pre-tox’ for the festive period!
    Best Angus

  • Hi Chris,

    Have a great time looking for your Christmas Tree! How great to be able to apply the Gratitude Chain to purchasing a Christmas Tree. Enjoy your day (and I’m sure you will!).

    Best to you,

    David

  • Hi Angus,

    Thanks Angus for your appreciation of this approach to building and sustaining our gratitude. The intent of my gratitude-focused writing and teaching is to demonstrate in many different ways how accessible gratitude is to all of us.

    And you make a great subtle point about looking for the opportunities to be and feel grateful during the holiday season. The idea that we should all be grateful to each other during the holiday season can get lost in the hustle and bustle of buying presents and attending events.

    Best to you,

    David

  • jeffdustin says:

    What you do best, in my opinion, is simplify without making a concept too watered down. Awesome. Cultivate: curiosity, awareness and memory. Even I can remember that!

  • Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for your post! Jeff, your comments on Positive Psychology News Daily are some of the most thoughtful and engaging of all of our readers. I appreciate what you said about my writing. And thanks for seeing the power in putting together Gratitude Chains in our lives.

    Best to you and your family!

    David

  • […] …to find out more about gratitude chains and how they will enhance your happiness – click here […]

  • amanda says:

    David,
    Thank you for writing these great articles! They have such positive meaning and you always apply it to different life situations! Thanks for a great read! Hope all is well! Amanda

  • Hi Amanda!

    Thanks for your post! It is great to hear from you!

    I am so glad you are enjoying my articles. It is a pleasure to write and share them!

    Best to you,

    David

  • Laura C. says:

    David- I remember following Oprah’s advice a few years ago of keeping a gratitude journal. Your article was a powerful reminder of how valuable that practice was in keeping me connected to what I really care about. Very timely for the hectic holiday season-much appreciated-Laura

  • Hi David, beans are a great metaphor! It reminds me of Jack and the Beanstalk. May magic beans grow tall!

  • Hi Laura,

    Thanks for your post! Great to hear about your success with the gratitude journal. One of the most popular studies by Robert Emmons and colleagues demonstrated that you increase your gratitude (and your happiness) when you count your blessings each evening. You and Oprah had it right!

    Have a wonderful holiday season!

    Best to you,

    David

  • Hi Dalida,

    Thanks for your post! I’m glad you liked the article and the “beans” example. And I like your “magic” thinking!

    Best to you,

    David

  • Cari Jackson Lewis says:

    Dear David – Again, a wonderful article. I find that the process of reflection is so important that it bears repeating that the examination and contemplation of one’s treasures is essential — absolutely crucial — in order to fully appreciate them. It is “metacognition” – thinking about thinking – that we don’t do enough. Your “gratitude chain” forces us to identify and think about how and why we have and appreciate the things we have. Bravo for “making it plain” for all of us to see. God Bless you and your wonderful family this holiday season.
    Cari

  • […] Currently, it is known that our generation is currently composed of the highest number of sad or emotional people in history. As one of those who have suffered sad, emotional times, I surfed around the internet to share with people to the answer to the following question : How does one become happy? This blog post that might just have the answer. Robert Emmons, psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, demonstrated in his research that grateful people are happier. In his new book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Emmons wrote, “Our groundbreaking research has shown that grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism, and that the practice of gratitude as a discipline protects a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness.” The challenge then is for us to find ways of becoming more grateful. One powerful way to increase your gratitude is by increasing the number of what I call “Gratitude Chains” in your life. Gratitude Chains are made up of links of appreciation for what contributes to the people and things we care about. Here are the four keys to building Gratitude Chains. Cultivate Awareness Everyday look around you and take note of what you value. What and who do you appreciate in your life? Write down what you observe (i.e., your spouse, your children, your job, your daily meals, your friends, your country, your car, your home, the customer service you receive, the coffee you drink, etc.). Cultivate Curiosity Learn more about each person or item on your list. How do these people do what they do each day? What contributes to these important things in your life? Ask questions, study, and research. Do whatever you have to do in order to better understand what and whom you treasure. […]

  • mikey says:

    Great work David! I remember Mom tell us about her experiences with beans and helping us show appreciation for the work that goes into farming and all other areas of life. Your article is a refreshing reminder and aid to us all. Taking a page from your book, I show gratitude every morning for all that I have and will have. Especially my family.

  • Hi Cari,

    Your posts are always such a delight to read! Thanks as always for your support of my writing.

    Cari, you hit it directly; the time it takes for us to reflect on the good things in our lives pays great dividends. The more we understand about what makes our lives good and possible, the better we are able to care for and recognize the people we love and appreciate, and the more apt we are to value the important things we have in our lives. And along the way we become more grateful and happier.

    Happy holidays to you and your family!

    David

  • Hi Mikey,

    Great to hear from you! You sure have a lot to be grateful for in your life. And it is clear that your appreciation for it all runs deep. Your gratitude shows up in all of your relationships. It is a joy to see!

    Big hugs to you,

    David

  • Halle says:

    Thank you once again for the great reminder to be grateful! I work in a gourmet grocery store where a large % of our product is grown and made locally. This article has reminded me to personally thank the farmers, chefs, cooks, and other venders who bring their product in the store on their delivery day. I hope there’s a chain reaction that starts with my small words of gratitude.

  • David, just this morning a client of mine expressed deep,heartfelt gratitude for a “chain of people” who were complete strangers that helped her recently through a very difficult time. Then I open up PPND and I see your article. How wonderful! Gratitude seems to be showing up everywhere – especially when we’re looking for it – even in that can of bean 🙂 I’m grateful to you my friend, Margaret

  • Lillian says:

    Hi David,

    Just got back to my computer after wonderful Chanukah celebrations with my family. An historic chain of events led to the wonderful story of Chanukah. Your article exemplifies this story: It helps me recognize the people who have made my life so rich, and the chain of events that have led to my life of joy and fulfillment. I am so blessed to have my family and my friends who have helped me on my journey in this life.

    I “love” green beans, and I cannot eat green beans without thinking of your story, and being inspired by it. Thanks David!

    Lillian

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Halle,

    Thanks for your post! And what a great way to apply the power of your gratitude chain! I can just imagine how cool it will be to see your gratitude move through this chain of important people. Have fun with it!

    Best to you,

    David

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for the post! And thanks for sharing your client’s experience. How great that she tapped into a gratitude chain in her life: She recognized all the good people who contributed to her making it through a difficult time in her life. And how cool that my article showed up right after your conversation with your client!

    And thanks Margaret; I am also grateful to you!

    David

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Lillian,

    Thanks for your post! And Happy Chanukah to you and your family! I can imagine how rich your celebration is given how aware you are of all the good in your life. Enjoy this time with your family and enjoy your green beans!

    Best to you,

    David

  • Priscilla Au says:

    Over 20 years together with my husband, I’m almost forget the importance of gratitude to him. After reading the above issue, it helps me to recognize how much he love me. Thanks David and I will apply to others arround me.
    Best regards
    Priscilla

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