November 16, 2012

365 Days of Gratitude. ~ Joanne O.S. Kelly

An Invitation to Appreciate.

After all the chaos of Hurricane Sandy, it’s imperative we find ways to stay grounded, de-stress, and support one another as a community.

Even if you weren’t directly affected by the storm, you may have tuned into the devastation and felt the sorrow of our brothers and sisters who lost homes or even lives. Thankfully, times of adversity can be powerful mediums for growth—putting us right back at the center of the storm.

To celebrate my 33rd birthday this month, I decided to change the direction of my blog, and write daily about something for which I am grateful.

This is an open invitation for you to join me in 365 days of gratitude.

It just makes sense, right? If you focus on all the good mojo, you’re bound to attract more. While that may not always be the case, research is beginning to prove why gratitude is at the core of so many spiritual traditions. Not only does it feel good to be thankful, it’s actually quite good for our health:

> Although cause and effect has not been established, most studies published on gratitude support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being. (Harvard Mental Health Letter, November 2011)

> Participants who kept gratitude lists in a study conducted by Emmons and McCollough were more likely to have made progress toward important goals (academic,
interpersonal and health-based)—sounds good to me. My goal list for NYC is kinda ridiculous.

> Multiple studies are proving the link between thankfulness and lowered aggression and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners. (The New York Times)

> Gratitude is at the core of many spiritual and religious experiences (including IslamBuddhism, Christianity and Judaism). We can more easily recognize that we are all connected, not just in action, but perhaps even in some transcendent or other dimensional way.

> The Hawaiian word for thanks is “mahalo“: “There are three root words in mahalo. The first “ma” means “in,” the second ha refers to “breath” or “life energy,” and “alo” means “in the presence of.” Therefore, mahalo invokes a divine blessing which means: “may you be in the presence of the divine breath.” It acknowledges the divine as Creator and the divine within as well.

Looking at the vast array of articles and evidence online, there are a few red flags we may want to keep in mind on the journey. In findings from a study conducted by Lyubomirsky et al in 2005, those who practiced gratitude once a week reported being happier, while those who practiced three times a week did not. Could habituation of this practice lead to gratitude being as mundane as brushing your teeth? Will the technique lose potency with time?

Well, in true yogic form, there’s only one way to find out: experience!

It’s a big commitment, to express gratitude everyday—though so far the biggest challenge has been choosing which one thing that day to be most grateful for. You may find, like me, that there are an infinite number of ways we’re all connected, and therefore, an infinite number of people, actions and things to be grateful for. Do I write about that delicious dessert I had or the timing of catching my bus right on time? Am I grateful for the autumn colors or the amazing yoga class I had in the park?

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”

~ Meister Eckhart, 13th century mystic

One of my soul sisters has decided to embark on this gratitude journey with me, using a personal journal at home. So far, we’re loving this powerful practice, both in times of suffering and as a daily personal offering. We invite you to do the same!

Please feel free to share this with anyone you know who might be interested. According to the studies, practicing gratitude even just once a week can be inspiring—and practicing it together can only multiply the results.

All the photos belong to the author.


Joanne O.S. Kelly is a Hawaiian writer, yogi and teacher currently serving her community in New York after a year-long spiritual sojourn.  The “Bagel Moments” have been pretty classic so far, as she makes her way through the process of integration in the urban sprawl.  Jo holds an honors BA in English Literature from Tufts University, is an advanced level yoga instructor at the 500-hr level through the Yoga Alliance, is TEFL certified, Reiki Level 1 certified, and practices Thai Massage.  Her blog, The Weekly Jo, is covering a year-long commitment to gratitude (check it out and join in!); visit Custom Yoga International for more information on yoga, and Project Surya for information on global community service.




Editor: Elysha Anderson


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