Why Being Grateful Has So Many Benefits

GratefulnessBOYT: Why did you decide to write The Gratitude Power Workbook? What is its over-riding message or purpose?

Brenda Knight: The response to Living Life as a Thank You was overwhelming. We received dozens of emails asking or more of the same. Readers wanted more specific practices, thus The Gratitude Power Workbook.

BOYT: How did you come together to collaborate on the book?

Brenda Knight: I worked with Nina Lesowitz, co-author of Random acts of Kindness, and Attitudes of Gratitude. So we got into the gratitude movement and got to know Mary Beth Sammons that way. I realized we had a great team of gratitude practitioners.

BOYT: What was your role in the making of this book?

Brenda Knight: As the editor of Living Life as a Thank You, I started deconstructing the book and was inspired to write original questions and "power tools."

BOYT: Why is it important for us to be grateful? Why do you think it is so inspiring?

Brenda Knight: Gratitude is the quickest way to a whole turnaround in attitude. Focus on what you have instead of what you are lacking. This can make people appreciate life more.

BOYT: Although being grateful seems to make us happy, you talk about how it can transform a person’s life. How does being grateful make such a difference?

Brenda Knight: A gratitude adjustment can take one from having a negative attitude to seeing the world differently. Yes, it can make you happy, but the main benefit is to make one stop being self-absorbed and to think of other people.  

BOYT: The book uses anecdotes about real people and their experiences. How did you identify the individuals whose stories you tell?

Brenda Knight: This is where Mary Beth Sammons comes in. Her particular skills are what helped us here. She is a journalist for the Chicago Tribune, Family Circle, AOL, etc. She constantly is searching for stories; in this case it was for stories of people who turned their lives around through gratitude.

BOYT: In your book you say that gratitude is our natural state. Can you talk a little about this? Is gratitude is something we all come by naturally?

Brenda Knight: Children and babies come into the world as natural optimists. It is life experiences that wear people down and cause them to forget their natural states of gratitude. That's why Living Life as a Thank You and The Gratitude Power Workbook are daily reminders to reset.

BOYT: What gets in the way of our ability to be truly grateful and fulfilled?

Brenda Knight: Self-absorption.

BOYT: Some people just seem to be born with a positive outlook while others tend to see the glass as half empty.  Can a negative person learn to be grateful?

Brenda Knight: Absolutely. Several stories exemplify this. Some people are natural worriers, and anticipate problems, which actually brings problems on more often than not. Practicing gratitude daily helps prevent this. Worrying is the biggest waste of time, and the way to stop worrying is through a positive outlook.

BOYT: What about the person who is already positive and appreciative of life? Why is the book still worthwhile for them?

Brenda Knight: I am reminded of my boyfriend, who is very positive and sunny. He came into a workshop for The Gratitude Power Workbook and bought one of the books. Later he said it helped him understand his relatives who are not so sunny. It was definitely worthwhile, because it helped him gain new insight into other people.

BOYT: In your book you point to studies that show that those of us who are grateful instead of focused on losses and disappointments tend to be more satisfied. Why do you think this is?

Brenda Knight: Many wisdom traditions, such as Buddhism, talk about the importance of "what is." It is true that accepting things as they are, instead of feeling cheated or denied by life, helps you to become a more balanced person. The old cliché, "Life isn't fair," ceases to be true when you accept "what is."

BOYT: In times of economic upheaval does gratitude go by the wayside? Or do we tend to say “Well, it could be worse!”?

Brenda Knight: Oprah, who seems to have a well-developed attitude of gratitude, has noted that this recent economic upheaval will be good for people because it will cause them to be communal. I think people have been more communal, have started sharing and bartering more. There is more generosity. Oprah was right. The economy can make things tough, but is also makes us have more gratitude for each other.

BOYT: Gratitude has been celebrated by Oprah and others and it seems to be a groundswell. Is there a gratitude movement? If so, what is it and where is it heading?

Brenda Knight: I mentioned Nina Lesowitz before and this project we worked on, Attitudes of Gratitude. We first sent one to Oprah. The first issue of O Magazine had Attitudes of Gratitude on the cover. I give Oprah a lot of credit for being a guiding force in the gratitude movement. I believe it is still growing. It takes us back to the simple virtues of being a good person. Kindness, generosity, and gratitude are all fundamental practices we should do on a daily basis. These small acts add up to make a big difference in the world.

BOYT: You mention that an attitude of gratitude reminds us that we are all connected. What does this mean? How does this manifest in the world?

Brenda Knight: I also mentioned Nina and I were involved in Random Acts of Kindness, which started with bumper stickers and a very tiny print run. It spread into millions of acts of kindness all over the world. Gratitude for, generosity to, and kindness to other people makes us all interconnected. In Star Wars, it is called The Force, but I think it's love.

BOYT: What do you personally do every day to practice an attitude of gratitude?

Brenda Knight: Every morning I meditate on the coming day and visualize the day in a positive way. I think about all the meetings and interactions I will have with everyone, even the people at the coffee shop, and how great they will all be. If I have a presentation or meeting that fills me with anxiety, I focus on how well that will go. This creates of cushion on gratitude that gets me through the day.

BOYT: If people want to turn their lives around for the positive, what would you recommend they do right now that will make a difference?

Brenda Knight: In The Gratitude Power Workbook, we advise people to turn around their lives by asking one simple question: What are you grateful for?

Brenda Knight

About Brenda Knight

Brenda Knight is a twenty-year publishing veteran, starting at HarperCollins and authored American Book Award-winning Women of the Beat Generation, Wild Women and Books, Rituals for Life, The Poetry Oracle, and the forthcoming Happiness Habits.   

She has worked with many bestselling authors including Diane di Prima, Phil Cousineau, Daphne Rose Kingma, BJ Gallagher, Congresswomen Jackie Speier, Mary Jane Ryan, and Paolo Coehlo.  Founding editor of Viva Editions, Knight lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she practices gratitude daily.