“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” — Melody Beattie
We seem to hear a lot about giving thanks and being grateful around Thanksgiving but some experts and psychologists think that practicing gratitude is a habit that should be applied all year long.
Gratitude guru Professor Robert Emmons has spent much of his adult life examining the psychology of gratitude and its connection with positive outcomes in a person’s life. Through his work he’s found that being grateful improves both psychological and physical health.
Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, tend to take better care of themselves, and behave in a more prosocial behavior. Giving thanks reduces toxic emotions, makes us less likely to want to seek revenge, and increases the empathy that we have for others.
With all of the benefits that come from just being more grateful it seems like a no-brainer that this is something we should all be doing more of.
Making Gratitude a Habit
Like all of the healthy habits that we strive to acquire throughout our lifetime, we know that if it is something that we are serious about doing we are going to have to work at it. Even Dr. Emmons admits that gratitude isn’t something that comes easily or naturally to him. In an interview that he did with Ben Dean at Mentor Coach.com, Emmons says that he “recognizes that it requires strong intention and sustained effort on his part to redirect his attention if he wants to live with an “attitude of gratitude.”
There are some specific steps that we can take to increase our mindfulness so that we become more grateful.
Start a Gratitude Journal – There are number of health perks that come from keeping a gratitude journal. The simple of task of writing down what you are grateful for at the end of each day can switch your focus from all that is wrong with your life to all that is right with it. People that take a few minutes to journal before they go to bed feel calmer at night and sleep better.
*Tip – Keep the journal on the table by your bed and plan to write in it each evening. You can keep is as simple as a couple of sentences if you don’t have time for more. Writing each day will help you establish the habit. Journaling also reduces stress and provides clarity on what it is that you want to have more of in your life.
Write Thank-you Notes– A sincere, simple thank you note given to a person that went out of their way to make you feel good or do something to help you goes a long way. And the thank you note is as beneficial for the giver as it is the recipient.
*Tip – Buy a box of thank you cards or blank note cards and find someone each week to give one to.
Say It Out Loud – Express out loud something that you are thankful for each day. My husband and I were watching 60 Minutes on Sunday evening and one of the segments was about villagers in Kenya that have to travel on foot for fresh water that they carry back to their homes in large buckets. It was easy to express out loud my thankfulness for living in a country where fresh water is available at the turn of the knob on the sink. I believe most of us take so many things like fresh, clean water for granted.
*Tip – Every day be grateful for something and say it out loud to yourself, or whomever you are with at the moment you recognize it.
Begin Each Day by Being Thankful – Don’t wait until the end of the day when it’s time to write in the journal to express gratitude. Start each day by saying thank you. This can only help you anticipate the good things that are in store for you that day.
*Tip – Remember that every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.
Get Moving – Take a walk, practice yoga for 10 minutes, or stand up and stretch. Learn to have a greater appreciation for all of the things your body does each day.
*Tip – Physical activity improves our mood and opens our mind to all of the things we have to be thankful for.
The Gratitude Experiment
With Thanksgiving coming, this week is the perfect time to begin implementing some of these steps that will help you establish a habit of saying thank you each day.
Check out the Gratitude Experiment from WellCast in the video below that discusses Dr. Emmons research and the undeniable health benefits of gratitude.