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by Veronica Guerrero-Quan

Practicing gratitude for connectedness and contentment

Without gratitude, we will never understand plentitude.
As I was preparing this article, I entertained myself by searching rhyming words with “gratitude” in hopes of putting together a profound sentence. This is the best I could come up with: Without gratitude, we will never understand plentitude.

What is gratitude?
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines gratitude as, “a sense of thankfulness and happiness in response to receiving a gift, either a tangible benefit (e.g., a present) given by someone or a fortunate happenstance (e.g., a beautiful day).”

We could easily argue that humans have experienced gratitude, or at least plenty of opportunities to feel grateful, since we have been around on planet earth!

Even so, it was not until the late 1990’s that the field of psychology began researching “positive psychology,” including gratitude. Before then, psychological research solely sought to understand mental illness and maladaptive behavior. The hope of finding a remedy to human sorrow drove research and clinical practice.

In 1998, former APA President Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD coined the term “positive psychology” and introduced an era of research expansion to include human well-being and the various factors that propel people to thrive (Azar, 2011). This expanded vision for psychological research has allowed us to empirically learn more about gratitude.

What have we learned about gratitude?
Here are some inspiring take-aways from gratitude research:

  1. There is a correlation between gratitude and overall sense of wellbeing (Sansone & Sansone, 2010).
  2. Gratitude can increase longevity, our imagination capabilities, and our problem-solving capacities (Emmons & McCullough).
  3. Gratitude and meaningful living are closely linked (Toshimasa, 2008).
  4. Grateful people experience greater levels of contentment (Cloud, 2011).

Who wouldn’t want to experience a healthier, happier, and meaningful life? Is this not what we all strive for? Why does it feel so unattainable to us at times?

Without gratitude, we will never understand plentitude. Remember this sentence?
Perhaps we must not await the most ideal or perfect of circumstances to FINALLY feel grateful. Perhaps plentitude awaits us the moment we pause, take note of the good we already have, and embrace gratitude.

You may be thinking… But Veronica, plentitude means PLENTY and I don’t have that!

Well, what is “plentitude”? The Merriam-Webster definition states, “the quality or state of being full” or “a great sufficiency.” Plentitude paints a picture of completeness and abundance.

However, isn’t it interesting that completeness and abundance can be defined very differently from person to person?

Without gratitude, we will never understand plentitude.
I invite you to take 30 seconds to list three fulfilled needs and desires within the last week. For example, this could include meals, conversations, or experiences. Meditate on these three for a moment. What are they? How did they satisfy you? How did they make you feel? How did they impact you?

Take a couple of minutes to meditate on the questions above.

My friend, welcome to the life of plentitude.
Without gratitude, we will never understand plentitude.

How can we “live out” gratitude?
Clinical psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud addresses the benefits of gratitude in his book, “The Law of Happiness.” He highlights the following three steps to fully embrace the benefits of gratitude:

  • Feel your feelings of gratitude. Intentionally tapping into these feelings will positively impact your mood.
  • Put words to your gratitude. This can include writing it down, saying it aloud, or keeping a gratitude jar of weekly entries.
  • Tell them to God or other people. Be specific! Tell them what you are grateful for from them. Tell them what you are grateful for in life. This can include a prayer, a phone call, a text message, a card or written letter, a work email, or a face-to-face conversation!

An idea for practicing gratitude as a family: The Gratitude Jar
Practicing gratitude as a family is a great way to cultivate relational connectedness and collective contentment. I encourage you to consider starting a Gratitude Jar this month!

  1. Get a jar
  2. Decorate the jar as a family
  3. At the end of the week, each family member jots down their name, date, and one thing they are grateful for on a paper slip
  4. Put your slips in the jar
  5. Repeat every week for a year
  6. Next November, you can gather as a family and read through the slips to celebrate gratitude

Without gratitude, we will never understand plentitude. May we enjoy a plentiful life!



References
Azar, B. (2011, April 1). Positive psychology advances, with growing pains. Monitor on Psychology, 42(4). https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/04/positive-psychology
Cloud, H. (2011). The Law of Happiness. Howard Books.
Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, eds., The Psychology of Gratitude (London: Oxford University Press, 2004), 232.
Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: the benefits of appreciation. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)), 7(11), 18–22.
Toshimasa Sone et al., “Sense of Life Worth Living (Ikigai) and Mortality in Japan: Ohsaki Study,” Psychosomatic Medicine 70, no. 6 (2008): 709-15.