...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Monday, November 17, 2008


Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert Emmons is a masterpiece for anyone interested in their own spiritual health. I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Emmons in a 2007 lecture in Houston. If you ever doubted the role of gratitude in healthy spirituality and human wholeness, then this book is for you. Actually, this volume is a must read for our own well being, especially as we offer spiritual care to others.

Emmons maintains that gratitude not only is good for those who practice it, but also, motivates us to do good. It seems that gratitude is "in season" right now; however, within everyone is what the author believes is a "set point" for happiness. Practicing gratitude can increase a person's capacity for happiness significantly. The paradigm of the book is that gratitude and happiness fulfill and complete each other. The happiness/gratitude cycle includes both enjoying and recognizing good gifts, good intentions. "Everything looks better when it is seen as a gift," Chesterton stated. So if we can see life and the constituent parts of life as a gift, we are well on the way to living at a deeper, more fulfilling, level.

Because the psychology of gratitude has impressive research behind it, it is not a new happy-ology, or the latest in the power of positive thinking. The counting of blessings counters the adaptation humans have to whatever is good in our lives. Like guinea pigs on a treadmill, we adapt to life as we have it and even life as we want it sometimes. It's true that some of us are naturally more grateful. What the disciplines (psychologists will call them interventions) of gratitude do is to raise our set point for gratitude and happiness, while also dealing with real barriers to gratitude, such as daily hassles, entitlement, or trauma.

The researchers never maintain that a gratitude practice is magical, nor is it easy. It is simply a powerful tool and resource for health, and in my opinion, spirituality. The keeping of a daily gratitude journal for 30 days, for example, impacts depressive symptoms for six months! A one-time "gratitude visit" can have the same impact for 30 days!

I recommend this book, or even Emmons' Words of Gratitude, a lighter read. Or check out the latest from myauthentichappiness.com.

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

Try Gratitude

If you want a formula for making the best of the less-than-perfect and making the most of what you have been given, then begin to compare your lot to what you were before you were born, and it will empower you with wonder every time. John Claypool

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