Exercising Gratitude: If you Could, Who Would You Thank?

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As I have often said, “I want to thank you for believing in me when I was unbelievable.”

The question was posed to me recently as a writing exercise: If you could thank anyone, who would you thank and why?

My sense of humor went here first…
“I’d like to thank the guy who wrote the song that made my baby fall in love with me.” (Who Put the Bomp? by Barry Mann)


Then, thinking more deeply, I remembered…
I learned from Bill McGrane, founder of the McGrane Self-Esteem Institute (Cincinnati), to never stop saying THANK YOU to those who have helped us along the way. He urged us to periodically express this gratitude over a lifetime. This gratitude should be repeated many times and never be exhausted.

I understood the soundness of following McGrane’s advice. It has become a practice for me, and I have done it often.  Sometimes, I can contact a person directly and say THANKS. Sometimes, they cannot be found or contacted by conventional means, in which case I meditate on my gratitude to them. I do my best to think deeply about the help they gave me so that I can feel my appreciation in my body and mind, and imagine sending cosmic energy for gratitude out to the Universe.


For emotional well-being, GRATITUDE is a powerful antidote for self-pity and despair. Feeling gratitude and expressing it are important for  emotional well-being.

A good mental health practice is EXPRESSING feelings. Literally, “to express” means to bring a feeling or idea from inside yourself so that you get it out. PRESS means TO PUSH; EX means outside. When one really EXPRESSES an emotion they have “pushed it outside” so that less of it is roiling around inside themselves; they are more or less relieved of it; they ‘got it out’. Often, people who claim to be expressing feelings, especially those that are unpleasant such as anger, fear, regret, are still ‘stuck’ with the full impact of them on their mental and emotional well-being because they have DRAMATIZED their feelings but not relieved them through EXPRESSION.

I have incorporated this wisdomly advice as one of the six elements of GOOD-HEARTED LIVING, to prevent hardening of the attitudes.

Wednesdays are for Gratitude: A good way to feel miserable is to constantly think you need something more to make you happy. An attitude of gratitude brings serenity and laughter. Wednesday thought: “As you go through life, let this always be your goal: keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole!” A bit of music by Burl Ives helps make the practice memorable: Donut Song 

Julie Ann Sullivan, MBA, CLL-E, and I created A Gratitude Exercise that invites participants in workshops and talks to experience gratitude and  gives them a simple, pleasant, immediately accessible  tool for expressing it. Follow the steps below and you can do this right now.

I start by explaining a bit about the value and function of gratitude and expresion, then give instructions along these lines:
1. Think of someone who has helped you along the way in life.
2. Take a few moments to think deeply on this and identify/select one person to thank, right now, for their help.
3. For this exercise, right now, select a person who is already in the contact list on your smart phone. 
4. For the next ten minutes, either stay in this room or find a quiet space outside the room, to contact that person, either directly by phone call, or text or email…whatever… and tell them your gratitude.
5. After ten minutes, we reassemble in the room to elicit some of the experiences and reactions.
6. Participants are encouraged to practice the six elements of Good-Hearted Living and repeat the exercise each week or more often, contacting as many people as you wish.

In short order, hundreds of individuals can know what gratitude feels like within themselves, and have a brilliantly easy tool for expressing it.


If I could… It sounds hypothetical but, with this exercise, opportunities for expressing gratitude are real and always at hand. Using meditation, intention, focus, concentration, willing and wanting, I can thank anyone and everyone, all of my ancestors who I have not known directly, and those I have known personally, and the generations after me. This practice is a great source of comfort and joy for me. It is available at every moment.

For more information about these and related practices, contact me at [email protected]


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