One-day retreat focuses on benefits of saying 'Thanks'
By Lou Fancher
If there's one treasure hunt almost everyone has participated in, it's the search for happiness.
Fortunately, the steady plod of science is offering clues. Turns out one key factor in finding happiness is having an attitude of gratitude. To that end, a one-day "Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude" retreat at Grace Presbyterian Church is planned from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 30.
The workshop will include a presentation of the science behind gratitude, a free lunch, guided meditation, art activities, journaling, gentle movement exercises and specific measures for applying the lessons learned to work and personal relationships.
"This is our fourth retreat," the Rev. Roger Reaber said. "Our planning team suggested this as a subject. It grew out of the previous 'Exploring your Excellence,' which had 'discovering your giftedness' as the subtext. Out of that came a sense of gratitude and how it shapes our lives."
Gratitude has become a buzzword lately, as research from neurologists and social psychologists armed with big data, results from fMRIs (functional imaging that can detect blood flow to areas of pleasure in the brain) and scores of scientific evidence proves the beneficial health effects of saying "thanks."
The practice of gratitude has proved street cred -- in periodicals like the Journal of Positive Psychology and books from people including that journal's editor-in-chief, Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading scientific expert on gratitude. Locally, studies from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and at UC Davis bear the concept out, as well.
Acknowledging that a gratitude retreat presented by a Christian institution will offer Biblical teaching, Reaber said, "We're open to whoever will join us. I'll be using Jewish as well as Christian scriptures. We have a gratitude journal and it puts together words from various faiths."
Reaber said that during 22 years at the Walnut Creek church, he has advocated for social justice for all people, peace between Israel and Palestine and bridge-building to the Muslim community. His retreats, typically drawing 30 to 50 people, offer a unique environment.
"It gives people a greater sense of community, both within the church and beyond our doors. It's an opportunity to grow, to focus on one's faith, to experience growth in one's spirituality."
Because we share an instinct -- that money, fame and similar superficialities do not guarantee happiness -- Reaber says taking time to focus on the alignment of science and spirituality on the subject of gratitude will lead to discovery. The event is geared for adults of all ages, and participants are encouraged to bring a journal.