Most of us have a lot to be thankful for in our lives, and it's often the small moments that create the most joy: the warmth of sun on your face after a long, cold winter. The love of family gathering around the table for a Sunday dinner. To recognize these moments, whether written in a journal, or sharing with someone, is practicing gratitude. Four experts, through their published work, share experiences that changed how they bring gratitude into their lives:
Vulnerability Researcher Brene Brown On The Relationship Between Joy And Gratitude
On creating a gratitude practice
"I think the relationship between joy and gratitude was one of the most important things I found in the research. What I found-12 years of research and 11,000 pieces of data-I didn't interview a person who would describe themselves as joyful or their lives as joyous, who did not actively practice gratitude.
For me it was very counterintuitive, because I went into the research thinking that if you're joyful, then you should be grateful, but it wasn't that way at all. It was that practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives, and when I say practice this is the part that really changed my life. It changed my family and the way we live every day. When I say practice gratitude, I don't mean the attitude of gratitude or feeling grateful, I mean practicing gratitude.
These folks kept gratitude journals. Some of them did interesting things - at 12:30pm every day they said something out loud that they were grateful for. We say grace at dinner and after grace everyone in my family says something they're grateful for. Not only does it invite more joy into our house, it's such a soulful window into what's going on in my kids' lives. There are some days where my eighth grader will be like, 'I'm joyful that there's a huge thick wall between my room and my brother's room.'"
Organizational Pyschologist Adam Grant On How To Express Gratitude
On the value of written letters
"In the fall of 2003, I started grad school. One of the more daunting assignments was to contact 15-20 friends, family, and colleagues who knew me well, and ask them to share a story about a time when I was at my best. My task was to create a portrait of my strengths based on the patterns. It was a powerful learning experience, but it felt unbalanced-what about my weaknesses? I started asking people to share times when I was at my worst. Vomit… but it was just as valuable.
As the end of the year approached, I began to feel like something else was missing. I had received a lot of feedback but I hadn't given any. So over break, I spent a week writing emails to the 100 people who mattered most in my life, telling them what I appreciated most about them. It's one of the most meaningful things I've ever done. And it taught me something about what I valued: the two most common themes were generosity and originality...what if we each picked ten people and told them what we appreciate about them?"
Sheryl Sandberg To Berkeley Graduates, 'Find Your Gratitude
How the loss of her husband helped her find 'deeper gratitude'
"Finding gratitude and appreciation is key to resilience. People who take the time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier. It turns out that counting your blessings can actually increase your blessings. My New Year's resolution this year is to write down three moments of joy before I go to bed each night. This simple practice has changed my life. Because no matter what happens each day, I go to sleep thinking of something cheerful.
Last month, eleven days before the anniversary of Dave's death, I broke down crying to a friend of mine. We were sitting-of all places-on a bathroom floor. I said: "Eleven days. One year ago, he had eleven days left. And we had no idea." We looked at each other through tears, and asked how we would live if we knew we had eleven days left.
As you graduate, can you ask yourselves to live as if you had eleven days left? I don't mean blow everything off and party all the time- although tonight is an exception. I mean live with the understanding of how precious every single day would be. How precious every day actually is.
It is the greatest irony of my life that losing my husband helped me find deeper gratitude-gratitude for the kindness of my friends, the love of my family, the laughter of my children. My hope for you is that you can find that gratitude-not just on the good days, like today, but on the hard ones, when you will really need it."
Former Author Oliver Sacks On Feeling Grateful As He Was Dying
On feeling 'intensively alive,' in the days before he passed away in August 2015
"Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.
On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.
This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).
I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at "NewsHour" every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.
This is not indifference but detachment - I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people - even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.
I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure."