Expressing gratitude

Gratitude is that simple, quiet inner quality of thankfulness for what we have right now, plus the overt act of giving thanks to those who gave it to us, visible and invisible.  It’s become such an overused cliché, unfortunately, that our brains are quick to dismiss the concept and any advice as “of course I already know what gratitude is and I say thank you all the time, thank you very much!”

We invite you to spend a few more moments on gratitude today. Just for a moment please stop, breathe, and ask yourself deeply– “am I truly skillful with gratitude in my life, on a regular basis?”

What and whom should you thank for a simple act of enjoying the taste of an apple you just ate, for example?  The grocer, driver, farmer, seed nursery, fertilizer, pollinator, wind, water, sun, and it’s “turtles all the way down”? And then at the bottom of the pyramid of gratitude is very source of life.  Despite all our genius in biology, medicine, genomics, AI, and other skills, humanity still hasn’t figured out how to breathe life into inorganic matter ab initio.

We can manipulate things already living and have them replicate – and nudge them left and right, CRISPr away a few genes here and there. But, that apple seed was alive from when before the first apple was an apple.  That’s how far back our gratitude could go, perhaps even earlier.  Same for our morning coffee – from the barista all the way back to the very source of life.

Neuroscience teaches us that we get squirts of both the feelgood serotonin and dopamine from deep within the midline of our brainstem when we express gratitude. 

There is no formula that says “6 thank yous = 34 millimoles of dopamine”, but so many ancient and Indigenous traditions and all world religions teach us that being grateful on a daily basis seems to be a good dose, but we must really mean it.

Dr. Elvir Causevic