“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
When you stop for a moment and give gratitude for something in your life, what happens? Does your face tense or relax? Does your mouth frown or don a slight smile? Do your eyes squint or soften? Does your mind chatter away or are you granted a moment of peace? You could continue this inquiry and go through your entire body asking these same questions and yet, already one can see that it takes only a moment to be grateful and that it does more than simply give thanks.
Researchers find the virtues of gratitude include good health. Dr. Michael McCollough, of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Dr. Robert Emmons, of the University of California at Davis, say their initial scientific study indicates that gratitude plays a significant role in a person’s sense of well-being.
The following is an excerpt taken from their Gratitude Theory.
McCollough and Emmons were curious about why people involved in their faith seem to have more happiness and a greater sense of well-being than those who aren’t and decided to study the connections. The study required several hundred people in three different groups to keep daily diaries. The first group kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day, while the second group recorded their unpleasant experiences. The last group made a daily list of things for which they were grateful.
The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved. McCollough and Emmons also noted that gratitude encouraged a positive cycle of reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages another.
McCullough says these results also seem to show that gratitude works independently of faith. Though gratitude is a substantial part of most religions, he says the benefits extend to the general population, regardless of faith or lack thereof. In light of his research, McCullough suggests that anyone can increase their sense of well-being and create positive social effects just by counting their blessings.
We all find ourselves in situations that challenge our attitude of gratitude. That’s life in this human form. However, practice gratitude, and you’ll be happy. Practice ingratitude, and you’ll make yourself miserable.
Here’s how one-woman practices gratitude.
Be Grateful and Be Happy
I don’t recall what it was that got me started with the habit, but I know I’ve got lots of company in quiet, personal spaces all over the globe with one of my nightly rituals, ending my day with my gratitude journal.
Yesterday, I dropped everything in the middle of my day and jumped in my car to meet a girlfriend for an impromptu lunch that lasted three hours. So last night I happened to be thinking about entrepreneurship, and how I can now have three-hour lunches pretty much whenever I want, and I wrote:
- I am so grateful that I finally am self-employed, and that this life of the solopreneur has been the result of so many years in corporate life.
- Yet I am so grateful for all those years in corporate life, for they taught me so much, mostly how to do this right, and how to appreciate it.
- I am so grateful for the customers I have, for my customers now always become my friends. I value my friendships now more than I ever have before.
- I am grateful for my health; that I can do all I now do, and pretty much when I want to do it. My health has been a constant gift I cannot take for granted.
- I am grateful for Christine, and that out of all the friends I know she has, she called me today.
Five seems to be a magic number with this, a just-right number. There were times when I tried to see how long I could make my list, but then it became an entirely different experience. With just five things I reflect on each one more, and I realize that I really don’t need too much else to make me happy.
And don’t be fooled by my entries last night. More often my list of five things is much simpler. It includes being happy about such things as hard-copy magazines and my husband liking to cook.
As Eckhart Tolle said, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” What would be on your list?
Why not start now and strengthen the habit to assure it’s in place by the New Year!