The Benefits of Growing Gratitude

Isn’t it true that often the motivation to feel gratitude is brought on by an experience of what we could have lost, or saved, healed, or survived?  We are most generous with our gratitude right after some type of deliverance or provision.  Thanksgiving and the practice of consistent and daily gratitude in our lives can bring about joy, hope and wellness.  The question is – can gratitude grow through both challenging and good times?

“Expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better”, according to a Harvard Health Letter, November 2011.  “Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.  With gratitude, people acknowledge that there is goodness in their lives.  In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves.  As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”

If you would like to experience a growing level of gratitude in your life, here are five suggestions for getting started.   Resource: Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier,  Dr. Robert Emmon

  • Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal – whether you jot a few words down in the morning or at the end of the day, the act of writing in Emmon’s words, “allows you to see the meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own life.”
  • Use Visual Reminders – Emmon’s says he puts “Post-it notes listing his blessings in many places, including his refrigerator, mirrors, and the steering wheel of his car”. Setting a certain time for a gratitude check on your phone may also provide a minute to pause and express gratitude for something specific.
  • Have a Gratitude Partner – social support encourages healthy behaviors, because we often lack the discipline to do things on our own. Emmon’s says, “If we hang out with ungrateful people, we will ‘catch’ one set of emotions; if we choose to associate with more grateful individuals, the influence will be in the other direction.”
  • Make a Public Commitment – Make it a goal to not pass up an opportunity to share what you are grateful for in a more public way. People will come to know you better by what you share and it provides them the invitation to both look for and share their own.
  • Change Your Self-Talk – When our inner dialogue is negative, our mood is usually low. Research has shown that we can change our mood by changing the tone of the things we say to ourselves.

In the next few days, reflect, name, note and share a few things that have made you grateful.  After all, this year it might help everyone to grow just a little bit more grateful and joyful and hopeful!

“It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratefulness that makes us joyful.” Jesuit priest as quoted by Dr. Brene’ Brown on Joy and Gratitude, You

Cecelia Dachtler, MA
Life Coach, LSW

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