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A “Gratitude Moment”: The Letter

By on July 2, 2008 – 8:33 am  8 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.



I checked on Dawn and the girls.  Dawn was sleeping.  And Eliana and Ariela were sprawled across our bed fast asleep.  We let them stay up a little later than usual (sometimes we let them fall asleep on our bed, and then I carry them upstairs to their rooms). As I was heading from our bedroom to the kitchen, I stopped in the foyer to look at two pieces of mail that were opened and sitting on a shelf.  I reached for the one on top.  It was a letter.  It was addressed to Dawn.  I read the first two lines.

“Thank you for your recent visit to our facility.  Your digital mammogram shows no evidence of cancer.”

I stopped.  I didn’t read the rest of the letter.  I just thought about what it could have said.  Then I thought about all the other letters that were opened today, and the letters that would be opened tomorrow.  Many thousands of women would be blessed with good news.  I also thought about all the women around the world who had received or will receive the news they fear most.

Then I had what I call a “gratitude moment.”

curcuma amada I headed to a window.  I looked outside and took in the big world.  And I said thank you.  Thank you for blessing the health of my wife, children, parents, and all of my family.  Thank you for caring for my friends and colleagues.  And I said thank you for everything that is good in my life.

I know letters and phone calls could come at any time with news I would never want to hear.  So, when I am reminded of the good in my life, I stop and say thank you.  I want to always appreciate the abundance in my life.

The science of positive psychology now points us to the psychological and physical benefits of feeling grateful.  Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis and Michael McCollough of the University of Miami found in their research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:  “There do appear to exist benefits to regularly focusing on one’s blessings.  The advantages are most pronounced when compared with a focus on hassles or complaints…” 

In one study Emmons and McCollough “…found that a weekly benefit listing was associated with more positive and optimistic appraisals of one’s life, more time spent exercising, and fewer reported physical symptoms.”  In another study they discovered:  “People led to focus on their blessings were also more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or offered emotional support to another…”  And in one more study the research pair found that people induced to feel gratitude experienced “…greater levels of positive affect, more sleep, better sleep quality, and greater optimism and a sense of connectedness to others.” 

The evidence is in:  Gratitude pays dividends to all who practice it. 

So, would you join me this week on a special journey?

This week look for the reminders of the good in your life.  And when you find them, stop and say thanks.  You have much to celebrate in your life.

 


 

References

Emmons, R. & McCullough, M. Eds. (2004). The Psychology of Gratitude (Series in Affective Science). Oxford University Press.

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

Image
circum amada courtesy of Gifted Photographer

8 Comments »

  • Kathryn Britton says:

    Dave,

    I just wanted to create a link from your article to the one Doug Turner wrote — where he and his wife got the news you were so grateful not to get.

    http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/doug-turner/20070315161

    These two postings belong together.

    Kathryn

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Thanks Kathryn!

    Doug and Laurie’s story is a beautiful one, and I remember it well. It is amazing how quickly life can turn in a direction we do not expect.

    One of my favorite lines from Doug’s article – and there are many – was when Laurie said to Doug soon after they received the news: “OK, Mr. Positive Psychology, do your stuff.” Well, Laurie and Doug sure did their stuff over the past couple years. They are an inspiration.

    Best to everyone,

    David

  • Alberto says:

    Hi David

    Lots to be grateful about on our lives, and your moment was just spontaneous and sincere. More of those can be incorporated into our daily lives.
    All the best,

    Alberto

  • Lil says:

    Hi David,

    I am very happy for you and Dawn. Your expression of gratitude is an example for me, and all your readers. To write down my blessings and to read that list every day is a must for me. Thank you for leading the way. May you and your family continue to be blessed with good letters. Lil

  • Chris says:

    Thanks David for reminding us about how easy it can be to count our blessings. I’m already on the lookout for my own Gratitude Moments!

    Chris

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Thanks Alberto, Lil, and Chris!

    Thank you all for your good wishes, and thank you for joining me on our gratitude journey!

    Best to all of you,

    David

  • David, I opened this post this morning and you reminded of how grateful I am to have YOU as a colleague and friend! I will now go downstairs, grab my cup of coffee, and tell Neal how grateful I am to be his wife and friend. Sending a BIG HUG to you, Dawn,and the girls, Margaret

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Margaret!

    Thanks for such a wonderful post; I appreciate it very much. And you know that I have always appreciated your “abundant” approach to life. Send hugs to Neal and the girls!

    Best to you,
    David

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