March 6, 2020

Full of Gratitude

Seventy-eight percent of Americans feel a deep sense of gratitude at least once a week

With a name like hers, gratitude might seem to come naturally to Dawn Joy of Glen Burnie, Maryland.

But it was not until she nearly drowned 20 years ago that Joy “really learned to be grateful for every day... When you have gratitude you see all the good things in your life.”

She’s especially grateful for all those wagging tails that keep passing through her life: the 162 “sick, injured, blind, and senior” miniature schnauzers whose lives she has already helped turn around.

Three years ago she started Homeward Bound Schnauzer Rescue Inc. after volunteering for a rescue organization that would find homes only for healthy young dogs. “But it’s dogs in despair who truly need rescue,” she decided. “So, our motto is, `We say yes when others say no.’” Just last year Homeward Bound paid $60,827 in veterinary bills, she says, to make rescued dogs well enough to enter new homes.

“You get to see them blossom,” says Joy. “Even some of the sickest dogs have this joy that springs from the gratitude of a second chance at life — which is what I got…I’m grateful for every day."

A 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 78 percent of American adults report feeling a deep sense of gratitude at least once a week.

78
percent of U.S. adults say they feel a deep sense of gratitude at least once a week

“Life can be overwhelming at times,” says Kai Koerber, 18. He should know. He was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, when a gunman opened fire in 2018, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others.

One way Koerber, a freshman at the University of California at Berkeley, copes with that experience is “to just take time to think about what you’re truly grateful for. What you have.” Gratitude helps “keep you grounded in reality."

Drawing on the Eastern meditation practices he learned from his parents, he’s teamed up with Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center to develop a wellness technology initiative that will bring neurotech and personal wellness spaces to campus in an effort to teach people how to attain “a better state of mind” and live “happy, healthy lives.” He’s grateful, he says, for his parents and “the opportunity to make a difference in the world."

Gratitude “gets us in the habit of paying attention to the things going well in our lives,” explains Emiliana Simon-Thomas. She co-teaches an online course on happiness at Berkeley that has attracted 580,000 students since 2014.

Gratitude gets us in the habit of paying attention to the things going well in our lives.

Emiliana Simon-Thomas

Simon-Thomas says gratitude is “also a recognition that these things are not always a result of your own prowess or genius but of the other people — or for some, a higher force or power — that are sources of happiness in your life.” This, she says, “helps us connect with others in a meaningful way."

Gratitude is “a very large part of my life,” says Judith Salley. “Every morning during prayer time, one of my requests to the Lord is that I be a blessing to someone that day.” Chairperson of the biological and physical sciences department at South Carolina State University, she’s also the lay leader at her church.

Whenever she learns of a student struggling with personal difficulty, Salley listens to their troubles, prays with them if they wish, and “it’s just amazing how He answers,” she says. At the end of the day “I am just so grateful to have been of service and of help."

Gemma Farrell gravitated to Roman Catholicism at a “pretty young age.” Today she regards herself a devout Catholic, and yet she’s found much goodness in Eastern religious traditions, including Buddhist meditation and Hinduism’s Bhakti yoga.

The latter introduced her to people who “live in pure devotion to God out of gratitude for being a particle in the universe.” She found it “a beautiful idea,” so when she started a yoga school in Princeton, New Jersey, eight years ago, she named it Gratitude Yoga.

“I try to keep it light,” she says. “I might say, `As you inhale, celebrate something that brings you happiness, or something you’re grateful for that you haven’t earned but were blessed to receive — maybe just a circumstance or a person you learned from.'

“It’s an approach,” says Farrell, “every human being can relate to."

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