Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Transpersonal

Arnold Shapiro, M.D.
July – August 2023 • Vol 4, No 5

What is gratitude? What are the three dimensions of gratitude? Gratitude is a positive emotion, and a valued character strength. Dictionaries describe it as “a readiness to show appreciation for, and to return kindness,” “thankfulness in response to receiving a gift,” and “a sense of happiness in response to a fortunate happenstance.” In sociocultural terms, it has been described as “social glue” that “binds people together,” and “reciprocal altruism that has helped humans survive.”

The three dimensions of gratitude that I propose are intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal. Gratitude for the many parts and functions of our physical body, and the awesome biology of our organs, systems, and cells, is intrapersonal. Gratitude for people helping each other and caring for each other is interpersonal. Gratitude for the Earth and Cosmos, God, and Nature is transpersonal. With all 3 dimensions available, there is no shortage of material for gratitude.

Gratitude is a source of positive emotions, including happiness. It offsets stress. It addresses the benefits we have received in life. It helps us focus on what we have, instead of what we lack.

There has been scientific research on the value of forming and expressing gratitude, and keeping a Gratitude Journal.

The book, Thanks! by Robert Emmons, has described much of this research. A Gratitude Journal could be as simple as writing down five (or more) things we are grateful for every day. Doing it at bedtime is likely to help a night’s sleep. Those who did so for two months, reported a significant improvement in their levels of happiness, and even physical health.

In prior issues of Natural Life News, I have discussed “Relaxors” that induce the Relaxation Response. Relaxors are soothers, and can include soothing words. Whole sets of soothing words can come from the statement “I’m thankful for…”

I have also discussed Relaxor breathing: deep, slow, smooth, and rhythmic. In my experience, a minute of such breathing can give rise to gratitude for the breaths themselves, where they come from (the Earth’s atmosphere—transpersonal), and what they provide for us: (oxygen/life energy) (intrapersonal).

I enjoy the acronym “BEST”. It stands for:

  • Breathe these breaths.
  • Enjoy these breaths.
  • Smile these breaths.
  • Thank these breaths.

I’d like to offer quotations of gratitude from two of my favorite authors, G.K. Chesterton and David Standl-Rath. Chester-ton has written in his autobiography: “One is never lacking in opportunities to be thankful, because around every corner is another gift waiting to surprise us!” and “When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted, or take them with gratitude,” and a third, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

David Standl-Rath has written: “Gratefulness is the full response of the human heart to the gift of all there is,” and “It is not happiness that brings us gratitude. It is gratitude that brings us happiness.”

Daily expression of gratitude adds to our “Thank Tank,” and creates a reservoir. Our “cup runneth over,” and we “pay it forward” with acts of kindness and generosity.

— Namaste!

Dr. Shapiro is a career clinic physician who has utilized relaxation techniques with many of his patients. His YouTube channel is: “Arnie Shapiro, MD • Breathing Easy.” Contact Dr. Shapiro by email at: