Gratitude is the Gift that Keeps on Giving

2:49 PM, Dec 5, 2012   |    comments
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Are you still feeling grateful? Are you willing to express openly what you are grateful for? How do you feel when you express gratitude? Happy, more possible, confident and alive? Yes! Gratitude is an elixir for living and feeling better. When you count your blessings, your lucky stars or simply carry and attitude of gratitude, you bring forth a surge of happiness and an overall improvement in the way you feel about life, yourself and the world around you. How do you feel when you are using your energy to compare your life with someone else's life and or lifestyle? What kind of emotional charge does complaining bring to your outlook and what does it do to others? Being ungrateful, feeling bad about yourself or complaining brings down your happiness and that of those around you too. 

Dr. Robert Emmons is an expert in the science and power of gratitude. His research brings credibility to why we should all add more gratitude to our lives.  Findings suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have physical, emotional, spiritual and interpersonal benefits. In one experiment, students who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis were more likely to engage in regular exercise, reported fewer physical complaints, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).[1] In other research, Dr. Emmons and colleagues enrolled adults with neuromuscular disease and had them participate in a 21-day gratitude study. Compared to a control group who did not write down things they were grateful for, those who participated in gratitude journaling reported better moods and more energy, more optimism, a deeper sense of connection with others, and greater quality and duration of sleep.

In his book, Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Dr. Emmons writes about the "law of emotional contagion." He explains how individuals are "susceptible to "catching" other people's emotions."  You have a choice every moment of your life to express your appreciation for your life and all its gifts; from being able to breathe a deep breath, witness a child laugh or hold the hand of someone you love. What you appreciate will always appreciate. Gratitude is an attitude, a choice and a gift that will give you and others around you more of everything that brings you more peace and happiness.

People who keep gratitude journals and make daily lists of things that they are grateful for are more likely to make progress toward important personal goals (health, academic and professional). Children who practice "grateful thinking" have more positive attitudes toward school, their families and themselves. You can grow gratitude simply by serving others. The state and feeling of gratitude grows when we offer to serve or support someone solve an issue or aid in overcoming a challenge.

Besides journaling, how can you grow your gratitude? Attending church or spiritual community based gatherings can increase our feeling of gratitude, as can prayer, reading religious writings and meditation.

You lose gratitude when you start doing social comparison. When you are truly grateful, you place less emphasis on comparing yourself to friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and celebrities. You give less importance to material goods. Having an attitude of gratitude helps to dispel depression, lower stress and create feeling of physical, emotional and spiritual positivity.  The beauty in being grateful is that you know in your heart that gratitude gives back 110%.

Gratitude can serve to elevate your goals and intentions around self-care and well-being. Being grateful also makes these things more likely to be realized. Dedicate yourself to a brand new ritual before bedtime - gratitude journaling. A five-minute session with your heart open and pencil in hand can help you to achieve many of the milestones of wellness you may have set for yourself. Gratitude journalists have been shown to be more likely to follow through with daily exercise, more apt to eat healthier foods and sleep more soundly. Being grateful is a choice. It is all about how you look at the world and your desire to see the good, no matter how small and celebrate it by bringing it to light. Expressing your gratitude will not only will serve you in living your "A- Game," it may also be a force to shift and uplift those in your midst.

Get your gratitude on now. Here's how:

-Keep a gratitude journal. You don't even have to write every day. Three to five times a week is just as beneficial as writing down every day. Keep the journal by your bedside or carry it with you so that you can keep track of things that you may forget about later. Write . more about people than things. Express thanks for the unexpected blessings that come your way

-Upon rising in the morning, take a few moments to notice all the good in your life and being grateful for the blessings. Whisper or shout an enthusiastic "I am grateful for this day!"

-Throughout the day express gratitude towards friends, strangers and family members. Remember the "law of emotional contagion" and watch this energy "wash" all over them and raise their gratitude.

[1] Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: Experimental studies of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377-389.


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