Many people have asked, “What is the Gratitude Way?” It is an attitude and daily practice that I learned from native ancestors and that is practiced in many indigenous cultures. It is often called the 5 to 1 practice, five statements of gratitude, praise, thanks, blessing for every one of constructive feedback.
To begin to implement this in our lives, I recommend that we begin each day with gratitudes, in prayer or meditation, naming all that we are thankful for. That comes before asking for anything. At its best we include family members and friends each day at some point in the day. We tell them specifically what we appreciate that they are doing and what we are thankful for. We also spend time telling ourselves the good things about ourselves. That’s often the hardest one to do. Be specific. It is not enough to just say, “you’re a good person.” Much better is to cite a specific event or thing the person did and how it made us feel and our gratitude.
In working with families I’ve found that children can learn to do this easily. I often begin to talk about it by asking, “have you ever seen a wilted plant?” Most say yes. What does it look like? They describe wiltedness. Then I ask, “what happens if you water it? It perks up.” I explain that we are like plants and if we don’t give each other enough appreciations, we get emotionally dehydrated, like plants. Then I teach them the following exercise.
GRATITUDE WAY EXERCISE: Sit with family or friends who are willing to try it. You go first. Speak to each one and tell them 5 things you appreciate about them. Be specific, rather than just saying they are nice. This not at all about flattery or “buttering people up.” What you tell the person needs to be true and meaningful to you, even if it seems like a small thing. Tell them your thanks, appreciations, what you’re grateful for about them. Then let them tell you how that feels to hear those statements. Then go on to the next person all around the group. Notice what you feel in your body each time. It may feel awkward at first but do it anyway. It is powerful. This can be done in family groups, or with friends and co-workers. The part about noticing what we feel in our bodies is powerful. When I notice my body sensations it anchors what just happened in a deep way. Sharing that with each other can be very affirming. I suggest you take a few notes afterward about how that felt for you and what body responses you noticed.
The gratitude way exercise is a way to create a greater sense of emotional safety in families and other relationships. It strengthens trust among people and so strengthens community and belonging.
The workplace can be a setting where this can be used to achieve a greater sense of safety and a greater feeling of team. Research shows that people feeling appreciated in their workplace is a major factor in staff retention and morale, equal in value to getting paid. I offer workshops for workplaces in which I teach people how to implement the gratitude way, as well as workshops for schools to offer to parents and families.
If you resonate with this article, there are two other articles I wrote recently that you might like as well. One is called Tree Work to Support our Life and the other is called Unifying Body, Mind, Heart & Spirit, and Finding Our Mojo. I’ve reprinted them on the next pages. Keep talking with your friends about this.
© Jerry Allen 2017
About the author –
I hold a masters in public health education from UC Berkeley and a masters in counseling psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies. I’ve been a California licensed Marriage & Family Therapist since 1991, and am certified in Somatic Experiencing. I began my medicine man training in my first vision quest in 1973. I was initiated as a medicine man under the training and supervision of Theresa Dintino. I studied Aikido for 30 years and received 3 black belts. I live and practice in Oregon and Sebastopol, and enjoy playing music, tending our fruit orchard, and spending time with my two wonderful children.
Jerry Allen, LMFT, SEP, MPH, Anishinaabe Mashkikiiwinini (Medicine Man)
Gratitude Way Medicine Man Counseling & Coaching – firstname.lastname@example.org