At least once a year in November we celebrate what we are thankful for in our lives. Why is this important and should we be doing it more than once or twice a year?
What is Gratitude?
According to the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, Robert Emmons, there are two key components to gratitude. “First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good thing in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. …The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves.”*
What Are The Benefits of Being Grateful?
There are 7 scientifically proven benefits of gratitude**:
- “Gratitude opens the door to more relationships” – by saying “thank you” to others, it shows we appreciate them. Many times, saying “thank you” can lead to new opportunities.
- “Gratitude improves physical health” – according to a 2012 study, people who are thankful take better care of their health and have few aches and pains.
- “Gratitude improves psychological health” – Robert Emmons’ studies show that gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.
- “Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression” – grateful people are less likely to retaliate and show more empathy towards people, according to a University of Kentucky study.
- “Grateful people sleep better” – a 2011 study about gratitude journals found people who wrote grateful statements before bed slept better and longer.
- “Gratitude improves self-esteem” – appreciation of other’s accomplishments is an essential aspect of peak and better job performance.
- “Gratitude increases mental strength” – many studies over the years prove that being thankful and showing gratitude makes the person more resilient, quicker to over come trauma and have lower stress levels.
Many of these same benefits are listed in a Times article, “7 Surprising Health Benefits of Gratitude”. For a larger list of benefits, visit “The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life” by Amit Amin on Happier Human.
Ways to Explore Gratitude
Here are some suggestions to cultivate gratitude***:
- Keep a gratitude journal – every night before going to bed write down a couple of sentences about one or two things you’re grateful for today.
- Write a thank you note – thank a person for something they do which improves your life and send it to them or give it to them personally. You may consider writing a thank you note to yourself.
- Mediate – as you clear your mind, focus on something you are grateful for like the warmth of the sun, your pet(s), a favorite food, etc.
- Pray – say prayers of gratitude, thanking the divine for people and things you have in your life that bring you happiness.
- Say thank you to someone – tell a person “thank you” even if it is a stranger who held the door open for you.
Get support and encouragement to be grateful and show gratitude by joining Seeds of Wellness’ free “Sharing Gratitude Group” that meets the second Saturday of every month from 10:30 to 11:30am. We will share what we are thankful for in our lives, talk about our struggles to be grateful and discuss the benefits we are noticing as we explore reasons for gratitude. See the dates for this group in our Google Calendar on our Events and Services page.
* “Why Gratitude Is Good”, by Robert Emmons, Greater Good Magazine
** “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude” by Amy Morin, Psychology Today
*** “In Praise of Gratitude” from Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School