Kathy Murphy, Ph.D.

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A Few More Things About Gratitude

“Tis the season for Gratitude.  Your in-box is probably full of reminders.  

But here’s just a few more important things you need to know about

the magic and the power of Gratitude?  

Thanksgiving is our favorite family holiday ~ always has been ~ a lot more than Christmas which lingers longer and longer every year.  Thanksgiving, thankfully, comes and goes, more or less, in one day.  And it’s usually, for most of us, a pretty great day….good food, good friends and family, and good attitudes.  (Get it:  Great attitude/Gratitude?)

Thanksgiving can be magical because for one short day we make it a point to focus on the things that we are thankful for. But it’s not magic. Latest Science News: If you focus on gratitude everyday ~ if you make it a point to express what you appreciate everyday ~ your life will certainly change for the better. And so will your brain.

Spirit Rock Meditation Center

For the last month, we have been volunteers at Spirit Rock Mediation Center, just north of San Francisco.  This is one of the premier Buddhist retreat centers in the western world.  Spirit Rock has dedicated the last 30 years to helping us learn about how to live spiritual qualities like loving-kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude.  

It’s interesting that we had to go to a Buddhist retreat center to learn the latest science of mindfulness. Buddhists are excited because modern science is now confirming what they have known for 2,500 years. At Spirit Rock this month,  we’ve been learning about the neuroplasticity of our brains.  (Which simply means we’ve learned that we can change our brains for as long as we live.  We’re never too old.)

The Neuroscience of Gratitude

The kind of gratitude we’re talking about here is more powerful than just a thankful attitude. We’re talking about the power to actually rewire the brain.  It has been scientifically proven that living with a grateful attitude can heal and grow your brain (and maybe your heart?).

We now know, without a doubt, that the practice of spiritual qualities like gratitude, compassion, and love actually change the chemistry in our brains.  We become flooded with oxytocin (which is a good thing). It changes the energy in the body.   Done repeatedly and with intention, it changes neuronal firings and, ultimately, creates new pathways in the structure of the brain. Living by these spiritual qualities, we return to what Buddhist’s call our true nature ~ naturally.

One of the many daylong retreats we helped with during our month here was by Linda Graham ~ author of a new book, Bouncing Back – Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-being.  Linda came armed with all the latest science on how the brain responds to gratitude.

“In over one hundred studies to date, researchers have found that people who have a daily gratitude practice consistently experience more positive emotions; they are more likely to accomplish personal goals (thus demonstrating resilience)’ they feel more alert, energetic, enthused, alive; they sleep better; they have lower blood pressure; and they live an average of seven to nine years longer.

A Debt of Gratitude

All of us owe huge debts of gratitude to innumerable others. 

At the Veteran’s Day Parade in Petaluma

Gratitude is about much more than just a Great Attitude. Our gratitude practice also needs to have an action component.  As Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart says, we must make it a practice in our life to say “Thank You.”  

We really began to think about this when we were at the Veteran’s Day Parade in Petaluma a couple of weeks ago.    It’s the largest Veteran’s Day Parade north of San Francisco.   People lined up and cheered for miles. They’re very proud and very serious about expressing gratitude for our veterans.

What if everyday was like Veteran’s Day…maybe not a parade…but at least a remembering?

We, each of us, owe a debt of gratitude for so much. As Angelina Jolie said in her beautiful and gracious Humanitarian Award acceptance speech, “We are all so fortunate”.

What is Your Gratitude Practice?

I love the gratitude practice that Michael and my dear friend, Christine, have.  Immediately upon awakening, they both count their blessings.  They lay in bed reflecting on the good things in their lives and begin each day saying “Thank you”.  This has got to change your day. There are many creative ways to stop and remember to be grateful. Find your own practice ~ maybe it’s keeping a gratitude journal. Then do it everyday and see what happens. You just might create a whole new brain for yourself. You will definitely create a better day.

Michael and I are very thankful to each of you that have followed and supported us on this yearlong journey.  It would have been lonely without you. May you have a lovely Thanksgiving Day and please take some time during your holiday to remember all the things in your life for which you are thankful.

Coming Up

One of the ways Michael and I practice gratitude is service.  This holiday we will be serving Thanksgiving Dinner to guests and staff at Spirit Rock. (It’ll be weird to have a Thanksgiving without turkey…or wine…but Spirit Rock is a Buddhist meditation retreat center. Turkeys roam freely on the grounds here…and no wonder.)  After Thanksgiving, we leave Petaluma and Spirit Rock and travel to SLO (San Luis Obispo) for the rest of the holidays.

In January, we will return to Charleston for five weeks. On the weekend of Jan 30 – Feb 2, 2014, I will be faciliating another  New Year’s Retreat for Women at the spectacular award-winning Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, NC.  Don’t you want to come sit on a mountain top at an award-winning resort and spa with me and a great group of like-minded women?  Click here to learn more and sign up now for  your New Year’s Retreat  at beautiful Old Edwards Inn & Spa

Join Us on the Journey

We hope that throughout the year you will keep clicking through to see where we are. We are requesting input and feedback from all of you. Tell us where you’d like to go.  Make suggestions for us. Ask us to check some places out for you!  We are also hoping some of the places we visit and the experiences we share will ignite your life and maybe even set you off on your own spiritual journey.  We’d love to hear from all of you.  And if you know anyone who may be interested, please share our blog.

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5 Responses to “A Few More Things About Gratitude”

Nancy Lorraine Edelman says:

Hi Kathy and Mike. I just read your blog. It sounds like you are having a wonderful year exploring sacred spaces. I lived in California as a young teen and one of my fondest memories is of San Luis Obispo. I agree. I think it is a special sacred place. Now, my special sacred place is my backyard garden. Let me know when you are in Charleston!

Jeannie says:

I will be 60 years old (that is even hard to say) this week. It is nice to know I can still rewire my brain. Somedays I forget to say thank you but starting today I will include what I am grateful for as a daily practice in my journal.

Kathy Murphy says:

Hello to all of our dear friends and followers on the journey…first of all, so glad to hear from you….(Sorry that the first day I accidentally had the comments section turned off…thanks for getting to me via email…) We love it when we get messages.

Soooo much to be grateful for….this entire week my mantra and my prayer will be Thank you.

Richey says:

So glad to hear how things are going… I never miss a “episode”..;) Wow can’t believe how time has flown and it just seems like you just began. I too have had A LOT of changes …and Thankful for all that I have and the time spent with those we love. As I sit here I began remembering the day at Affordables when I met you knowing it was a clear message of a new direction.Being grateful for what we have than what we “think we need” or want is ever present. It is so easy to be engulfed in the mindset of chaos of those around us than protecting “the reserve” our inner core is energized by and needing for mindfulness. A holiday like Thanksgiving comes and goes too often as a holiday than a practice of everyday life. Thank you for sharing your experiences with me this year.It has made me stay conscious of what needs to change, to embrace the direction, and know what is possible…….;) stay safe in continuing your journey

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