One of the exercises we conducted during the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program was building a strength scrapbook — that is, a personal collection of quotations, pictures, music, film clips, and poems to help us increase a particular strength.
At the time, I selected Bravery, and I still pull out my collection whenever my heart quails. It’s a Word file and 14 pages long with lots of pictures, so it doesn’t take me long to read it. I’m always reminded that courage is what happens in control of fear, not in its absence.
So I want to start a scrapbook here on Gratitude as a strength. I’ve been asked to speak about it, so this is a way to pull my thoughts together.
In Character Strengths and Virtues (CSV, p. 554), the authors place Gratitude among the strengths associated with the virtue Transcendence and provide this as its consensual definition:
Gratitude is a sense of thankfulness and joy in response to receiving a gift, whether the gift be a tangible benefit from a specific other or a moment of peaceful bliss evoked by natural beauty.
Hmmm. I think that definition is a bit limited. I felt grateful to the universe yesterday that when I fell over an unexpected tree stump in the path, I only experienced a couple of bruises and no broken bones. This gratitude doesn’t fit the definition, but it was still gratitude.
Here are my first few quotations for the scrapbook:
“If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.”
~ Rabbi Harold Kushner ~
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”
~ Epictetus ~
I picked these up by searching in Google for Gratitude and finding a site of Quotes to Live By: Gratitude. I particularly like the first quotation because it expresses gratitude in terms of an active discipline of mind. That is, there are things we can do to feel more grateful. And what he recommends is essential Pollyanna’s glad game.
I still remember Ms. Manners’ two-word answer to the woman who wrote in asking how to children to say “Please” and “Thank You.” → “You nag.” Of course! Over and over till it becomes habitual. I expect that learning to be grateful is similar. You remind yourself over and over concerning what to be grateful for until you experience it habitually.
Gratitude is linked to ethical behavior: “Fitzgerald (1998) identified three components of gratitude: (a) a warm sense of appreciation for somebody or something, (b) a sense of goodwill toward that person or thing, and (c) a disposition to act that flows from appreciation and goodwill.” (CSV, p. 555, which refers to the other sources including Fitzgerald, P. (1998). Gratitude and justice. Ethics, 109, 119-153, ).
That’s enough for a start of a Gratitude Scrapbook. In the future, I’ll come here and select the Gratitude category to see all the pieces of the scrapbook.
Ah, I want to use this picture. How can I work it into a discussion of Gratitude? Well, I can either think of her as a pest who limits the plants we buy to ones that are at least somewhat deer-resistant, or I can be grateful to see her gracefulness and the maternal care of her mother just a few feet to her right. Imagine what it would be like if one could get such pleasure out of seeing a roach !