The Traumatic Stress Institute fosters the transformation of organizations and service systems to trauma-informed care (TIC) through the delivery of whole-system consultation, professional training, coaching, and research.

Gratitude Practice:  Fostering Hope and Connection

May 7, 2021 / by John Engel, MA

Monthly RC Mindfulness: Come Fill Your Cup - May 2021

More than 35 RC trainers, champions, and staff attended the second RC Monthly Mindfulness session! This blog offers a brief summary of the session, initial feedback from participants, and resources to advance learning and practice.

Enjoy the read and remember that all staff, Champions, and Trainers at RC agencies are welcome to attend this free, monthly drop-in offering – share this registration link with your coworkers today. We hope to see you June 2nd for Meditation: The Practice of Noticing.

Session Summary

Appreciation is an acknowledgment of good things,  of the positives we encounter. Gratitude goes a step further by recognizing that positive things in our lives are due to forces outside of ourselves, such as other people. 

There is increasing evidence that gratitude practice offers many benefits, including:

  • Increases feelings of happiness and life satisfaction
  • Boosts feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, and enthusiasm
  • Improves our relationships

Gratitude, then, fosters hope (that there is and will be goodness in the world) and connection (the belief that others offer us goodness).

Despite these benefits, there are barriers to experiencing and practicing gratitude, including feelings that gratitude is:

  • A sign of dependence or weakness
  • A form of social obligation (a “should”)
  • Dismissive of bad things or harm

Expectations of gratitude, especially from one’s self, may unintentionally reinforce feelings of not being worthy of good things in life, such as “Nothing good happens to me because I don’t deserve it," or, “No one is grateful for all of the things I do.” Additionally, in the face of hardship, the absence of gratitude may trigger feelings of shame, as in “What’s wrong with me? I should be grateful.” 

To enhance the benefits and work with the barriers, consider gratitude an invitation – an option and a choice, never a "should". Model and invite gratitude without expectation from yourself or others. 

Consider experimenting with gratitude practice in the coming month, using one of the resource links offered below. Remember to “do no harm” as you practice, meaning:

  • All practice is optional
  • Take a break or stop if you’re feeling distressed
  • Be kind and gentle with yourself and others
  • Seek support as needed

Source: The Gratitude Project: How the science of thankfulness can rewire our brains for resilience, optimism, and the greater good

Participant Feedback  

  • I really needed this today.
  • I love that these [monthly RC mindfulness sessions] are simple, touch-base moments. Sharing concept and then practicing. Great information for our young people and for ourselves!
  • It was great just getting the opportunity to experience gratitude in relationship, which increased my ability to connect with what I am grateful for.

Gratitude Practice Resources:  

Tags: Mindfulness

John Engel, MA

Written by John Engel, MA

John Engel is a Program Coordinator for the Traumatic Stress Institute of the Klingberg Family Centers, where he serves as a trainer and consultant for client agencies adopting whole system change to trauma-informed care. John also facilitates strategic change initiatives and product development for TSI, including development and launch of the Online ARTIC Scale and workplace mindfulness programs. Additionally, since October 2011 John has promoted public and private conversations about fatherhood through the Fatherhood Journey, a monthly column appearing in the Daily Hampshire Gazette and at www.fatherhoodjourney.com.