Grateful Heart: the Power Tool for Holistic Work
had hit bottom. In the throes of her addiction she had reached a moment
of choice from which there was no return – to live, or to die. Her
choice for life led her to a 12-step program, and now, 20 years later,
she is successful and happy, with no trace of her old eating disorder.
“I discovered that I did not know how to accept, or even recognize,
the gifts that were in my life. I deflected them all, stuck in an old
notion that I didn’t deserve good things. As a result, I just got
emptier and emptier, which is ironic, since I ate more and more food to
try to fill myself up.” Wholeness returned for Sara when she learned
to see her world with a grateful heart.
dramatic versions of this story are more common: the man who breaks off
a relationship because he’s afraid of getting too close; the single
mom who refuses a cash gift because she doesn’t want to feel
obligated; the person who just can’t seem to take a compliment
gracefully. These are only some of the ways we refuse to acknowledge the
gifts that life is constantly giving us. We label something as “a
given,” but we forget that what is given is by definition a gift, for
which a heartfelt “thank you” is an appropriate response.
is proof that feeling grateful is good for us. In 2003 psychologists
Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough published in the Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology their studies on the influence of
grateful thinking on psychological well-being (Feb Vol 84(2) 377-389).
This is the first time that any assumptions about gratitude were ever
scientifically tested. They did three different tests in which they
randomly assigned one of three tasks: one group was asked to record
moments when they felt gratitude throughout the day; the second group
was to record moments when they felt harried or irritated; and the third
group recorded neutral events, such as taking a walk, brushing their
teeth, or watching television. These researchers found that the group
that reported gratitude felt better about their lives as a whole,
reported fewer physical complaints, spent significantly more time
exercising, slept more hours and slept better, felt more connected to
people, and were motivated to do something to help someone else more
frequently. The study also found that those people who had a fairly
large number of gratitude-eliciting experiences throughout the day
seemed to have gratitude “moods” lasting for fairly long periods of
Emoto’s work with water crystals in his book, The Hidden Messages
in Water (2005, Simon & Schuster), teaches a lesson about the
healing properties of expressing thankfulness. After showing that water
was susceptible to rage and hate, as demonstrated by the deformed and
ugly crystals formed when it was frozen, Emoto then exposed the water to
expressions of love. However, the water did not recover its ability to
form brilliantly beautiful crystals until he added the expression of
is a very powerful emotion. It is the place on the give-and-take
continuum where the line between giver and taker becomes blurred,
because the pleasurable feelings that come when we give meaningfully are
the same as those that occur when we accept gracefully and gratefully.
how do we use this power tool to improve our lives?
is a very beautiful Japanese psychology called Naikan, developed in the
1940s by a devout Buddhist, Yoshimoto Ishin. In solitary thought, one
examines one’s life, asking only these three questions of each person
encountered in life, beginning at birth:
did I receive from this person?
did I give this person?
troubles and difficulties did I cause this person?