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Rev. Vicky's Message November 16, 2023

As difficult as it is to believe – the Holy Days are upon us once again. It’s the season of thanksgiving and thanksliving during which we (hopefully) focus on, practice and celebrate gratitude and generosity. And it’s no wonder that when we embody these qualities, i.e., live into and as our higher selves, the holidays become our favorite time of year.

After twenty-five years of ministry, I’m always seeking new ways to approach these yearly traditions/lessons, like the transformative power of gratitude. In the process of both exploring and listening for guidance about a Thanksgiving message, I discovered the Greater Good Science Center (UC Berkeley) white paper on The Science of Gratitude. (5-2018)

And while my Sunday Thanksgiving lesson is actually taking a different direction (i.e., Gratitude and Grace), I still wanted to share some of the interesting insights from this research. So, I’m going to do that here. And, I encourage you to visit the following link to read (at least) the 5-page Executive Summary.

The following are some excerpts I found inspiring:

The Origins of Gratitude

“Research suggests that gratitude is not simply a cultural construct. It has deep roots that are embedded in our evolutionary history, our brains and DNA, and in child development.

“Animals as diverse as fish, birds, and vampire bats engage in “reciprocal altruism” activities— behaviors that one animal performs to help another member of their species, even at a cost to themselves. Many scientists see this desire to repay generosity as an expression of gratitude. In fact, some scientists suggest that gratitude may have evolved as a mechanism to drive this reciprocal altruism, thereby turning strangers into friends and allies who are more likely to help one another [emphasis added].

“Studies from neuroscience have identified brain areas that are likely involved in experiencing and expressing gratitude, providing further evidence for the idea that gratitude is an intrinsic component of the human experience. Additionally, a few studies have identified specific genes that may underlie our ability to experience gratitude.”

Individual Benefits Of Gratitude

“Research suggests that gratitude may be associated with many benefits for individuals:

“A handful of studies suggest that more grateful people may be healthier, and others suggest that scientifically designed practices to increase gratitude can also improve people’s health and encourage them to adopt healthier habits.”

Other studies, examining possible connections between gratitude and various elements of psychological well-being, conclude: “In general, more grateful people are happier, more satisfied with their lives, less materialistic, and less likely to suffer from burnout. Additionally, some studies have found that gratitude practices, like keeping a ‘gratitude journal’ or writing a letter of gratitude, can increase people’s happiness and overall positive mood.”

In summary, gratitude is an innate aspect of our human nature – and when consciously developed – has tangible and quantifiable benefits. As we affirm every Sunday, the practice of gratitude is transformative… “we transform all appearance of fear or lack into faith-filled peace of mind by shifting our attention to thoughts of gratitude for the abundance of God’s Good in our lives.”

So, let's welcome in these Holy Days with open hearts and minds, ready and willing to be transformed – not just for a few weeks – but at depth, so that we can claim our innate divine essence and be the change that changes the world.

Namasté…Rev. Vicky


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