Practice an Attitude of Gratitude
Updated: Feb 8, 2019
Say “thank you.” “Count your blessings.” “Consider yourself lucky.” These may be phrases your parents told you when you received a gift or someone did something nice for you. It turns out, this advice may benefit your health and well-being too!
Gratitude is the act of acknowledging and appreciating your blessings. It represents your thankfulness for every experience. Whether good or bad, every situation is an opportunity to learn and grow. Dr. Robert Emmons, author of the book ‘Gratitude Works!’ and professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis explains that practicing gratitude in your day has a major impact on your health and wellness.
Benefits of having a gratitude practice:
1. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. Think of gratitude as magnifying your positive emotions. Research shows that positive emotions wear off quickly so when you express gratitude, it makes you relive that moment and helps you appreciate the value in it.
2. Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions. Jealousy, resentment, regret – emotions that can destroy our happiness are considered toxic. Have you ever tried being jealous and grateful at the same time? If you’re grateful, you can’t resent someone for having something that you don’t. You can only practice one emotion at a time. Practicing more gratitude in your day blocks negative emotions from filling it up.
3. Grateful people are more stress resistant. Gratitude can help give you a different perspective on a negative life event or even trauma. Studies have found people who are more grateful than those who are not have an easier time recovering from post-traumatic stress.
4. Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. Usually when you express gratitude, you have the sense that someone else is looking out for you – maybe someone has helped you get to where you are today. Or, your significant other brought you a coffee during a stressful day at work. Being grateful for both big and small things helps you feel someone has seen the value in you.
Expressing gratitude isn’t always easy. Just because you know it is good for your health and well-being, it takes practice to make it intentional and purposeful.
"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."
-William Arthur Ward
Ways to incorporate gratitude into your day:
1. Start a gratitude journal. It can be as simple as listing three to five things you’re grateful for each week. It can be writing down someone you are grateful for or even something nice someone did for you.
2. Write someone a ‘thank you’ letter. Think of someone who has had a major impact on your life. Maybe it’s a parent, your third grade teacher, or your old boss. Write them a ‘thank you’ telling them how grateful you are for what they added to your life.
3. Create a gratitude jar or box. Find a jar or box and put it somewhere where you will see it every day. Write down one thing you are grateful for each day and put it in the jar or box. Overtime, you will have a container full of reasons you are grateful and can go back and reflect on those moments.
4. Gratitude prompts. If you’re having a hard time thinking of things on the spot you are grateful for, gratitude prompts can spark some inspiration. The prompts could be: - I am grateful for three things I hear: - I am grateful for three things I see: - I am grateful for these three family members: - I am grateful for these three things I can touch/feel: - I am grateful for these three friends:
5. Gratitude walk. The goal of a gratitude walk is to observe the things you see around you. Maybe take your lunch break outside and enjoy the fresh air while noticing the things you are grateful for.
Developing a gratitude practice can increase your happiness as well. For more information about gratitude and the many benefits of practicing it, check out Dr. Robert Emmons book ‘Gratitude Works!’.
Emmons, Robert A. Gratitude Works!: a Twenty-One-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity. Jossey-Bass, 2013.