We aren't going to argue with the fact gratitude is making a comeback! It's such a wonderful way of reminding yourself of all the good there is in the world. It's even made an appearance on the most recent season of an adult cartoon (here is a link to the clip, just a heads up, it uses the F word)!
Robert Emmons, a leading scientific expert on gratitude, has been studying the effects of gratitude on physical health, psychological well-being, and on our relationships with others for over a decade.
In a series of studies, he and his colleagues helped people cultivate gratitude, usually by keeping a “gratitude journal” in which the participants regularly record things for which they are grateful. (For a description of this and other ways to cultivate gratitude, click here.)
We have started our own gratitude journals here at OCN, along with other gratitude practices. Though these often seem so simple and basic; studies (often on people keeping gratitude journals for just three weeks) show the results are overwhelming. Over one thousand people, from children to elders, participated in Emmons' study, and he found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:
Stronger immune systems
Less bothered by aches and pains
Lower blood pressure
Exercise more and take better care of their health
Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
Higher levels of positive emotions
More alert, alive, and awake
More joy and pleasure
More optimism and happiness
More helpful, generous, and compassionate
Feel less lonely and isolated.
Emmons' reports the social benefits are especially significant because gratitude is a social emotion, saying it is a relationship-strengthening emotion since it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.
He says although there are several important reasons gratitude is great, he highlights four reasons in particular:
1. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. It magnifies positive emotions.
Research on emotion shows that positive emotions wear off quickly. Our emotional systems like newness. They like novelty. They like change. We adapt to positive life circumstances so that before too long, the new car, the new spouse, the new house—they don’t feel so new and exciting anymore.
But gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it; we’re less likely to take it for granted.
In effect, I think gratitude allows us to participate more in life. We notice the positives more, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life. Instead of adapting to goodness, we celebrate goodness. We spend so much time watching things—movies, computer screens, sports—but with gratitude we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators.
2. Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret—emotions that can destroy our happiness. There’s even recent evidence, including a 2008 study by psychologist Alex Wood in the Journal of Research in Personality, showing that gratitude can reduce the frequency and duration of episodes of depression.
This makes sense: You cannot feel envious and grateful at the same time. They’re incompatible feelings. If you’re grateful, you can’t resent someone for having something that you don’t. Those are very different ways of relating to the world, and sure enough, research I’ve done with colleagues Michael McCullough and Jo-Ann Tsang has suggested that people who have high levels of gratitude have low levels of resentment and envy.
3. Grateful people are more stress resistant. There’s a number of studies showing that in the face of serious trauma, adversity, and suffering, if people have a grateful disposition, they’ll recover more quickly. I believe gratitude gives people a perspective from which they can interpret negative life events and help them guard against post-traumatic stress and lasting anxiety.
4. Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. I think that’s because when you’re grateful, you have the sense that someone else is looking out for you—someone else has provided for your well-being, or you notice a network of relationships, past and present, of people who are responsible for helping you get to where you are right now.
Once you start to recognize the contributions that other people have made to your life—once you realize that other people have seen the value in you—you can transform the way you see yourself.
We would like to invite you to join us on our gratitude journey! There are a couple ways you can do this with us. First is to keep a gratitude journal. This can mean listing just three things you’re grateful for each morning or evening. This practice works because it consciously, and intentionally focusing our attention on developing more grateful thinking. It helps us see gifts in life as new and exciting and helps us avoid taking things for granted. People who live a life of pervasive thankfulness really do experience life differently than people who don't feel grateful.
If journaling just really makes you put your guard up, that's ok (though we invite you to take a peak into why you are resistant to journaling) another gratitude exercise is to practice counting your blessings on a regular basis, maybe first thing in the morning, maybe right before bed or even sending them up with your prayers. What are you grateful for today? You don’t have to write them down on paper, even saying them aloud will help raise your vibration and connection.
So what do you say? Want to join us in gratitude?! We will start to use #gratitudegroupie on Social Media. As always, feel free to tag us, we love sharing!