Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk and founder of A Network For Grateful Living, is nearly 90 years old. He has witnessed many of the painful and tragic events of the twentieth century. And yet, as he shared in a recent Foundation-sponsored episode of Krista Tippett’s On Being, his commitment to gratitude is undiminished.
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The science of gratitude has been prominent across the U.S. during the Thanksgiving season, receiving a boost from a new survey supported by the John Templeton Foundation. The survey found that on Thanksgiving, “people are happy to watch football and parades or eat until they’re more stuffed than the turkey. But they’re not as good at using the day to express gratitude,” explains Janice Kaplan, a Foundation grantee and author of The Gratitude Diaries.
When Sir John Templeton set out to fulfill his philanthropic vision, he opened the door not only to the science behind giving and gratitude as distinct virtues, but also to the cyclic relationship between the two. “Thanksgiving leads to giving, and to spiritual growth,” he pointedly wrote. This innate connection is examined in a new book, The Giving Way to Happiness, a collection of stories and reflections on giving and gratitude alongside the growing body of science—much of which has been the result of funding from the John Templeton Foundation.
“There is no greater tonic and perhaps no more potent tonic for our spirit than gratitude,” wrote Sir John Templeton. Millions have recognized that wisdom: when acclaimed filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg’s TEDx talk on gratitude was posted, it became a viral sensation. “Nature’s beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude,” he says. “It creates a gateway for your inner voice to rise up and be heard.” The science of gratitude has now built a considerable body of findings which supports such intuitions.
The Gratitude Essay Contest, sponsored by the 92nd Street Y’s #GivingTuesday campaign in partnership with the John Templeton Foundation, is a chance for youth to think about and explore important questions about gratitude.
The annual global celebration of giving and generosity known as #GivingTuesday will take place on Tuesday, December 2, 2014. This year, a new online initiative offers the chance to increase the depth in which individuals engage with giving. The Science of Giving Online Resource Center is a one-stop destination to learn about living gratefully and generously.
A new website and initiative from the John Templeton Foundation intends to help increase the spiral of gratitude. ElementofGratitude.org aims to put the ancient insight and scientific evidence into practice by demonstrating that gratitude and thankfulness do indeed lead to giving, and vice versa. The goal of the site is to start a chain reaction across the internet, an online manifestation of the gratitude spiral.
Classic stories often contain rich explorations of character and virtues. These resources, loved by children and adults alike, have been developed into the Knightly Virtues educational program at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. The program offers materials to help nine- to eleven-year-olds enjoy tales such as those of King Arthur and Don Quixote while learning about virtues, including gratitude, honesty, and humility, as well as to think about their own virtues of character.
Studies have repeatedly confirmed that gratitude lies at the heart of joy. The scientific exploration of wellbeing, called positive psychology, continues to illuminate the ways in which the capacity to give thanks plays this critical role. It is the “queen of the virtues,” says Robert Emmons, one of the leading researchers in the field and professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. And yet, Emmons has also observed that studying gratitude is often met by a marked resistance.