Gratitude Blessings as a Key to Flourishing: The Translational Potential of the Jewish "Nisim B'chol Yom" (Miracles of the Every Day)
September 1, 2022 - August 31, 2024
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Director: David DeStenoInstitution: Northeastern University
Co-Director: Geoffrey MitelmanInstitution: Clal - The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership
Adopting and maintaining a posture of gratitude is considered to be very important in Jewish life — so important that the Talmud notes people should recite 100 prayers of blessing to God each day for the gifts that are received. For instance, over food and drink; for their clothes and possessions; when waking up and before going to sleep; and upon seeing beautiful things in their environs. In the Reform Jewish tradition, Nisim B'chol Yom is a daily liturgical prayer that explicitly focuses on recognizing the gifts of God in all aspects of one's life and blessing and giving thanks to God. The goal is to cultivate a sense of gratitude as a way to connect to the divine.
This project, co-directed by David DeSteno at Northeastern University and Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman of Sinai and Synapses, will consider Nisim B'chol Yom as a culturally-embedded form of intervention that promotes flourishing. Rather than simply assessing whether gratitude and flourishing are linked, the project aims to investigate whether the spiritual exercise of Nisim B'chol Yom as a liturgical prayer that can induce repeated 'pulses' of daily gratitude experiences leads to greater levels of flourishing-related outcomes.
The following research questions will be explored through two studies:
- Does engagement in these Jewish blessing practices increase daily feelings of gratitude?
- Do those feelings of gratitude lead to enhanced feelings of wellbeing, social connection, and virtuous behaviors (e.g., patience, generosity)?
- Can this spiritual exercise be put into a more nonsectarian form while still allowing accrual of benefits?
Study 1 will compare the practice of Nisim B'chol Yom and additional daily blessings; an active control of reading a short 2-3 page teaching on Judaism weekly; and a passive control condition, over a 4-week period. Study 2 will replicate Study 1 with a different active control group: a non-sectarian version of the spiritual exercise developed for people who might identify as spiritual but not religious or non-Jewish. Daily surveys will be conducted, and a website will be created to disseminate the practices.
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