How Gratitude Can Change Your Life

You speak quite a bit about the importance of gratitude. When did your particular focus on gratitude begin?

I was born on Thanksgiving Day in 1954. When I was four years old, I clearly remember my mother putting me to bed and saying, “No matter what you do in life, be sure to count your blessings before you go to bed at night, because those that are grateful for what they have, receive more to be grateful for.” I believe that there’s some wisdom in that – we often don’t realize how powerful gratitude is in our life.

Many years later, at the age of 28, I had just opened a practice in a mall. For some reason, I was having a really down day. People had been calling all morning to cancel and my perception was that they didn’t really want my help. I was angry with my patients; I was angry with myself and I was angry with my staff. I had the opposite of a “gratitude attitude” – in fact, I had more “stinkin’ thinkin’” than gratitude. Then all of a sudden, after a few hours spent in this ungrateful funk, I suddenly snapped out of it and realized that I was so focused on what I perceived to be the negative part of my day that I was not grateful for or even paying attention to the things that I had to be grateful for.

I walked out of my practice and down the street to the flower shop and purchased about 80 beautiful roses. For the rest of the day, each and every patient of mine received a rose. I took a moment to stop and acknowledge one thing in each person for which I felt grateful. You know what happened? Having had about 19 cancellations that morning, people suddenly began showing up that afternoon because they thought that was the day they were scheduled to meet with me. That day turned out to be one of my busiest days to date. My energy had shifted, and people were somehow picking up on that and coming in to be treated. It was an incredibly powerful demonstration for me on how your attitude can impact your life.

How did that change your behavior going forwards? Did you make a more concerted effort to actively practice gratitude?

I now keep a record of things I’m grateful for every day. We all have events in our life that we perceive to be terrible. And then a day, a week, a month, a year, or somewhere along the line, we ended up finding out that if it wasn’t for that “terrible” event, we wouldn’t have what we have now – we wouldn’t have met this person, had this experience, or applied for this job.

So, gratitude involves harnessing the wisdom of hindsight?

I prefer to call it “objective reasoning” where we stop and bring our perceptions back into balance and see both sides of things. At its core, gratitude is a perfectly balanced equation.

There are two types of appreciation or gratitude. There’s a superficial gratitude when people support what you want and it’s so easy to say, “Thank you”. Then there’s another type of gratitude when you actually see the hidden order and the balance of nature that is trying to keep you authentic, and then you’re grateful for the hidden order. It’s far easier to be grateful when things are going your way. It’s not as easy to go in and find something to be grateful for when you perceive that things are not going your way. But if you take the time to go in and find it, and find the hidden order in the apparent chaos in your life, then that is taking gratitude to a new depth.

I’ve spent many years studying neurology, the brain, endocrinology, physiology and many other fields, and there’s one thing that I’ve seen consistently, and that is that there is a homeostatic mechanism or feedback mechanism designed to bring about homeostasis. These homeostatic mechanisms inside our physiology, in our intuition, in our mind, and in all the events in our life, are all trying to get us to be authentic – in other words, where we have a balanced perspective of ourselves. If we puff ourselves up with pride or put ourselves down in shame, we’re not being ourselves. So, there’s a homeostatic mechanism to get us back into the center so we can appreciate and love ourselves. It is also the place where it’s easier to appreciate and love other people.

Gratitude is a perfectly calibrated mind where you see the hidden order to things, and you realize there is nothing to change in you relative to others, nothing to change in others relative to you, and you are now just grateful for the fact that it is what it is.

Do you practice gratitude daily or only when you feel the need to bring yourself back to homeostasis?

I keep metrics on a daily basis because there’s something to be grateful for each and every day. Just like when I was sitting in a funk in my practice that day, when I could have chosen to stay there or get up and buy the roses, we all have the opportunity to see something different and can choose to make a different decision or take a different action. We have control of our perception, decisions, and actions. If we change our perception and balance it, we can change our decision and our actions. Our whole life can transform as a result.  So, gratitude can and does have an impact on our life. It can change our life.

Do you recommend not just practicing gratitude but actually writing it down?

Taking the time to document what you’re grateful for on a daily basis will be one of the wisest actions you’ll do. Don’t go to bed until you have something to be grateful for – you will sleep more effectively, and your physiology will be better. Practicing gratitude helps you in all areas. People tend to love doing business with grateful people or being in a relationship with someone who is grateful for who you are and what you do. So, take the time to look at what you can be grateful for and document it. I guarantee that no matter what is going on in your life, there’s something be grateful for. Even during COVID-19 – the air quality has improved, new technologies are being born, many people feel inspired to take care of their health or get in shape, others are reaching out and reconnecting with family members or friends. There’s always something to be grateful for so write it down. It will make a difference.

Author: Dr John Demartini is a world-renowned specialist on human behavior, a researcher, author and global educator. 

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