Is Gratitude Really Important?
Thanksgiving is over. During this holiday most of us are grateful; we’re supposed to be. We stop and acknowledge the good in our life. We enjoy our family, eats lots of turkey, stuffing and pie. After this holiday we go back to our daily lives and get ready for the holidays. Psychologists tell us we better keep up with being grateful. It’s good for us. Here is why a gratitude practice is necessary all year long.
But is all the fuss over gratitude necessary? I mean it’s nice to say thank you when your partner takes out the garbage. We say thank you to the person who bags our food at the grocery store. These folks feel good when we acknowledge their kindness. But what does it do for us? It gratitude good for giver as well as the receiver? There is some interesting research about this very question.
Is there any good reason to engage in what some call a gratitude practice? I realize I am playing devil’s advocate here. I did a little research. Here is a quote from James E. Faust to get us started:
A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.
Positive Results for Those Who are Grateful – Your Gratitude Practice
As it turns out scientist Martin Seligman, of Positive Psychology fame, reports that gratitude can:
- Help us make new friends. When we thank a new friend, they are more likely to seek us out to create a deeper connection.
- Help improve the quantity and quality of our sleep. Who wouldn’t like that?
- Improve our psychological health. It turns out that people who are more grateful tend to have more positive feelings about themselves and have reduced symptoms of depression.
Doesn’t gratitude make us lazy or complacent?
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude and a professor at University of California, Davis. His research suggests that:
- Being thankful or appreciative does not make us lazy or complacent, it drives a sense of purpose and desire to do more good.
- People are more successful at reaching their goals when they practice gratitude.
- Those who practice gratitude are more likely to go out and do good works in their community – like volunteer and give charitable donations.
How Do I Practice Gratitude?
- One easy low-tech way is to notice everyday the good around you by identifying even the simple things such as your warm coffee, your car that gets you to work, etc.
- Use a gratitude journal. Set aside a few minutes at the beginning or end of your day to write down 10 things you appreciate. The list can start out very simply. For example, I often start my list with coffee as number 1 and sunshine as number 2.
- There’s an app. for that! I have a gratitude app on my phone that reminds me everyday to write. I can list as many items as I want, add a picture and there is an inspirational quote after I finish my list. There are many gratitude apps in the app. store to choose from. Pick one that suits your style and be sure to use the reminder function, so you use it daily.
Isn’t This Just Positive Thinking?
- Dr. Emmons has been studying and researching gratitude for over 15 years and reports that the more he studies it, the more complex and deeply rewarding gratitude practice is.
- Being appreciative and thankful is more important when things aren’t going well. When life gets challenging, continuing to be gratitude conscious allows you to have a big picture view and not get overwhelmed by life events.
There’s More – A Grateful Heart – Practice this Way
- Even regular gratitude practitioners, can get stuck. There are times when all the tools we have just don’t seem to work. When that happens, we can always engage our support network for some help. And when that doesn’t seem to work, we can set up an appointment with a therapist.
- Practice having a grateful heart. Opening your awareness to the good that is already around helps you be gentle with yourself and others. This reduces stress and creates more ease in your life.
- I look forward to hearing about your experiments and practice with being thankful and appreciative.
- What gratitude practices do you use and love?