I wrote in a number of my columns last year that when you increase your gratitude in life, you become happier and more successful. And I shared with you that one way to amplify your gratitude is to build what I call Gratitude Chains™.
You cultivate three things in the process of building a Gratitude Chain™:
- Awareness of what and for whom you are grateful
- Curiosity about what they do that makes you feel grateful, or what makes something you value possible
- Memory of what is good about these individuals or things by engaging in gratitude practices
When you link together your Gratitude Chains™, you experience a powerful appreciation of the important people and things in your life.
Research continues to demonstrate the positive impact gratitude has in our lives. In her book, The How of Happiness, Positive Psychology researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky, wrote: “Grateful thinking promotes the savoring of positive life experiences. By relishing and taking pleasure in some of the gifts of your life, you will be able to extract the maximum possible satisfaction and enjoyment from your current circumstances.”
So, let’s look at a Gratitude Chain™ applied to your personal life. You can start with your spouse, a friend, or your boyfriend, or girlfriend. If you do not fully appreciate what they do and how they do it every day, step into their world. Here’s an example of a Gratitude Chain™ I created about my wife Dawn.
Step 1: Cultivate Awareness
Dawn drives our daughters, Eliana (6) and Ariela (5), thirty-forty minutes each way to school, twice a day, Monday through Friday. My girls receive the education that we want for them because Dawn makes the drive every day. I did not truly experience gratitude for what she does until I made the trip a number of times myself. I became aware.
I also did not fully understand the demands of a mother’s role until I spent entire days, morning until bedtime, with the girls. My gratitude increased when I realized how much love, patience, and stamina Dawn shows every day. In fact, I have an appreciation for all moms. I became aware.
Step 2: Cultivate Curiosity
I asked Dawn how she manages to bathe, feed, brush hair, put on sunscreen, make lunches, and fill backpacks for the girls so quickly. I wanted to know her secret (because, truthfully, it takes me twice as long to do the same things). I asked about her system for accomplishing everything. I learned the steps, but more importantly, I learned how much love, care and thought Dawn puts into each day with the girls. I was curious.
Step 3: Cultivate Memory
Every morning when I wake up, I start my day by reciting everything I am grateful for, and Dawn is at the top of my list. My morning gratitude ritual helps me keep fresh in my mind all that Dawn does for our family each day.
And I look for opportunities to recognize Dawn, big and small. One of my practices is to write her a note each day. My notes congratulate or thank her. And they always say that I love her. I commit my gratitude to memory by practicing gratitude everyday. I remember.
Link Your Gratitude Chains Together
Gratitude Chains™ help to embed in your subconscious positive thoughts and feelings about who and what you care about; they keep your mind focused on recognizing everyone and everything important to you. And the more Gratitude Chains™ you have, the more you have the opportunity to influence your own happiness.
Lyubomirsky wrote: “When you realize how much people have done for you or how much you have accomplished, you feel more confident and efficacious.”
Could you imagine if you created a Gratitude Chain™ every week? You would have at least fifty-two people or things in your life that would make you feel grateful.
Awareness, curiosity, and memory are the links in your Gratitude Chain™.
Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York: Penguin Books.
Great article David! I am going to be sure to build gratitude chains in 2009. What a fantastic way to recognize all that we have to be grateful for.
Stimulating piece. It got me wondering about why gratitude doesn’t make you feel humbler and possible a little less efficacious…with so many people helping you all the time, I feel like I live in a nursing home, though a happy one.
This same thought strikes me whenever I think of Japanese new management styles that came in vogue in the 90’s or today’s collaborative problem solving approaches that are everywhere. I find that a little disempowering. If we are spokes on a great cog in a great big machine, then are we interchangeable and replacable?
I think gratitude has great power to uplift but sometimes bruises the ego. Can you speak to that?
What a wonderful way to start the year. I always enjoy your positive insights…keep’em coming!
Thanks, Abby! Happy New Year to you!
Best to you,
Thanks, Chris! And Happy New Year! Enjoy 2009.
Best to you,
JD, your line about a happy nursing home made me laugh out loud. And it made a great point. Gratitude should help us achieve important things in our lives, not limit us. We do not want to feel, as you say, like we are in a nursing home and we can only function if people are taking care of us all the time.
I believe wake-up calls – personal illness, loss of a job, death of a loved one – can significantly bruise our egos in life (among other possible distressing effects, like sadness, loneliness, and depression). These moments in our lives remind us that we have been happy and successful in part because people have helped us along the way. We realize that we have not journeyed alone. The bruising of our egos can come when we feel the regret of not having appreciated the help we have received. We recognize that we needed support before, and we need it more than ever after our personal loss.
I believe a constant awareness of who has helped us in life and who can help us in the future will not only make us more successful, but happier. I always suggest to my clients before taking on a new mission or goal is to consider who has helped them get to this point in their lives, who could help them going forward, and how they will continue to reach out to these important people along the way. Cultivating gratitude can emotionally and intellectually keep us focused on this network of good. And that is usually uplifting.
Jeff, thanks again for the post. Happy New Year!
Best to you,
So many lessons to be learned in life: gratitude is one of them. It is marvelous to see what a devoted mother Dawn is; you are very fortunate, and she is also because you recognize and fully appreciate all that she is and does. I have read many of your blogs and articles; it is evident that you are an insightful and loving person, and it follows that you have the same attributes as a husband and father. What a blessing to have gratitude for each other and your whole family. You continue to be an inspiration to us; I will continue to count my blessings every day. Thank you David
Thank you Lil for such a beautiful and generous email. Happy New Year to you!
Best to you,