This time of year we find ourselves so busy with work and the hustle and bustle of the holidays that I wonder if we are taking time to see the magic in each moment and truly give thanks.
The social world is alive with numerous “Thankfulness Challenges.” Many of my friends take part in the Facebook 30-day Thankfulness Challenge and post one thing they are thankful for each day in November. As I read each of their posts, I wondered if practicing gratitude is making a difference in their lives; so I did some digging on the power of gratitude.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is a turning of the mind to focus not on what is lacking from our lives, but rather placing focus on what we already have. Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude tells us, “Gratitude has the power to heal, energize, and change lives.”
Emmons defines gratitude in two components:
- We affirm that there is good in the world – all in all we can identify a number of good things we have received. He goes on to say that this doesn’t mean our lives are perfect; there are and will be burdens to carry. We must look at life as a whole and expressing gratitude will encourage us to identify the grace in our lives.
- The second inherent fundamental is identifying and knowing where the goodness comes from. Emmons describes that “true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others.” This is not to say we cannot appreciate positive traits in ourselves or be proud of accomplishments, but that we recognize that the sources of goodness come from outside of ourselves. In other words, there are other forces that did something for me that I could not do myself.
Why is Gratitude Important?
Emmons has found in his research that gratitude plays a much deeper role in our physical and mental health as well as in our relationships with others.
In a series of studies, Emmons helped people systematically cultivate gratitude by recording the things for which they were grateful for in a “gratitude journal.” The study found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of physical, psychological, and social benefits:
- Healthy immune systems
- Lower blood pressure
- Better sleep habits
- Motivated to exercise
- Fewer aches and pains
- Happy, joyful, and optimistic
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More helpful, thoughtful, and compassionate
- More outgoing
- More forgiving
- Less lonely and isolated
Think about how your life could be transformed by gratitude. Emmons’ studies go on to reveal several important reasons we should practice gratitude:
Ability to celebrate the present – Gratitude draws us into life. Rather than being a spectator, we are participants in our lives.
Toxic emotions are blocked – Negative emotions like envy, greed, and resentment are emotions that destroy our happiness. A study by psychologist Alex Wood in the Journal of Research in Personality found that showing gratitude reduces the frequency and duration of depression.
Increased resistance to stress – There are a number of studies supporting people facing serious illness, hardships, or discomfort will recover more quickly if they have a grateful disposition.
Heightened awareness of self-worth – Grateful people identify a network of relationships, past and present, have helped them get to where they are today. This group of people have invested in you and given you a gift because they see value in you. Once you realize the value you provide to others, you are able to look at yourself in a positive light.
Gratitude has power. I am personally challenging each of you to start a gratitude journey. Your assignment is to record one thing you are grateful for every day for 3 weeks, then turn your assignment into habit. Let me know how your life changes.
“If you are grateful for everything, then whatever you have is enough.” – J. Baadsgaard
Happy Thanksgiving. – The Ironstone Team
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