Much has been written in recent years about gratitude. How gratitude affects us, the science of gratitude, the power of gratitude and its effects on the mind, spirit and yes, the body, since all are intertwined. Those who study such things – psychologists and researchers in the area of positive psychology – note that gratitude is strongly associated with personal happiness and feelings of well-being.
The Thanksgiving holiday itself began as an expression of gratitude in the early 1600’s as the early colonists celebrated that year’s good harvest, and their appreciation of it. Over the centuries, it has evolved in this country to become a time when families come together to celebrate their appreciation of each other and the abundance in their lives. Family, friends – and food – are at the heart of this holiday centered on gratitude.
So what are some of the benefits of cultvating a grateful mindset? According to University of California, Davis, psychology professor Dr. Robert Emmons, who has done extensive research on the subject, gratitude can have an enormously beneficial effect on one’s health, both emotional and physical. Grateful people tend to take better care of their health, exercise more, and have more energy. Dr. Emmon’s findings also indicate that an “attitude of gratitude” can strengthen relationships and communities, and help individuals to better manage times of stress and adversity. Grateful people tend to be more optimistic, a characteristic which in turn can help boost the immune system. Gratitude helps us focus more on what we have, rather than what we don’t have, which helps us to feel more satisfied with our lives in general, and thus contributes to an overall sense of well-being.
With all these advantages to having a grateful mindset, how can it be cultivated? The good news is that choosing to be grateful is a habit that can be practiced and grows stronger as you count your blessings. Some methods that have been used to cultivate gratitude are:
- Keeping a daily gratitude journal. Each day write down 5 things in your life that you are grateful for. These can range from the basics of life such as food, a home to live in, your family, friends or pets, to a beautiful sunset or sunrise, a favorite piece of music, or a beautiful day at the beach.
- Share your gratitude with others. Let your spouse, or a co-worker, know that you appreciate them or acknowledge them for a job well done. Or write a note of thanks to someone for the gift of their time or their wisdom. Studies have shown that those who express appreciation to others also feel more positive towards those others.
- Pray and give thanks for your blessings to God or the Divine, the Universe, or Mother Earth. Just say thank you.
- Meditate. You can practice mindfulness meditation and focus on your blessings in the moment – peace, quiet, the sound of the rain, or the wind in the trees.
Make it a practice to focus on the goodness in your life on a dailybasis. The more you practice counting your blessings, the more you will appreciate what you have, and the better you will feel.