Supplement: Gratitude and Thankfulness: Gifts that Keep on Giving
Gratitude and Thankfulness: Gifts that Keep on Giving
By Mary L. Hardy, MD
Holiday time has come and gone. did you remember to stop and count your blessings? It's all around us during the holiday season—in the cards we sent, the holiday movies we watched, and the pause before we carved the holiday turkey. But what if gratitude weren't just a holiday cliché or a virtue between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Does gratitude only belong in church or other religious practice? Could developing an "attitude of gratitude" be good for us physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Can someone learn to be grateful?
Gratitude is defined as a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation, something only 10% of us report feeling regularly and often. The cultivation and recognition of this emotion is part of virtually all religions. Beyond religion, gratitude has recently become a hot topic in scientific research. Robert Emmons, PhD, a researcher at the University of California-Davis, has written more than 60 articles about this virtue. His Research Project on Gratitude and Thanksgiving (see http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/labs/emmons/ for a synopsis of his work and a limited bibliography) has demonstrated that cultivating this emotion creates benefits on many levels. If being grateful were a medication, we would all be demanding a prescription! Here are a few reasons why.
Physically, grateful people:
- experienced less stress,
- exercised more,
- had more energy,
- had better quality of sleep, and
- reported fewer physical complaints.
Psychologically, the more grateful subjects:
- made more progress toward their personal goals,
- had lower levels of depression, and
- had higher levels of optimism, alertness, and enthusiasm.
What if you just don't have a happy disposition or some really bad things have happened to you? It's true that our psychological makeup is influenced by our genetics and life experiences, but Emmons reports that surprisingly little of the group of positive emotions, such as gratitude, hope, and optimism, depends on circumstance. A positive way of framing things can transcend the events that are happening to you: Gratitude is a choice.
A large part of Emmons' research has focused on ways to increase gratitude, regardless of how happy you are at the start of the training. Learning to be grateful is easier than you think. The solution is simple and elegant—keep a gratefulness journal. A gratitude journal trains you to pay more attention to the good things in your life. If you spend a few minutes every day writing down three things you are grateful for and describe why you think these things occurred, you will see the benefits in your outlook and your health.Holiday time has come and gone. did you remember to stop and count your blessings? It's all around us during the holiday season—in the cards we sent, the holiday movies we watched, and the pause before we carved the holiday turkey.
Subscribe Now for Access
You have reached your article limit for the month. We hope you found our articles both enjoyable and insightful. For information on new subscriptions, product trials, alternative billing arrangements or group and site discounts please call 800-688-2421. We look forward to having you as a long-term member of the Relias Media community.