November 11, 2013

 A recent workshop at the University of California, Berkeley showcased the newest and hottest findings in the science and practice of gratitude.  Impressive as the advances were, not one speaker (myself included) grappled with what may be the single biggest question that stands in the way of making the basic science useful for practical applications: What must be overcome as a culture or as individuals in order for gratitude flourish?

We live in a nation where everyone is on the pursuit of happiness. Each individual has his or her own path this journey takes. For some, the search begins in books; for others it comes through service. And perhaps the most popular form of seeking happiness is through the accumulation of “things.”  Materialism, though, is bought at a cost. A society that feels entitled to what it receives does not adequately express gratitude. Seen through the lens of buying and selling, relationships as well as things are viewed as disposable, and gratitude cannot survive this materialistic onslaught.  The lack of gratitude is contagious, and is passed from one generation to the next.  Conversely, the act of gratitude is also viral and has been found to greatly and positively influence not just relationships, but one’s own emotional status.

For further reading: What Must We Overcome as a Culture or as Individuals For Gratitude to Flourish?