Gratitude

Flagstaff mom, Jennifer Williams, and her 2-year-old son Joseph, are part of the Flagstaff Parents as Teachers Program. (Courtesy photo.)

January is nearly over and most of us are looking forward to a fantastic 2018. During the holiday season and at the beginning of the new year we made the effort and took the time to be thankful and grateful for the people in our lives and all the things we have.

And, although it’s nice to count your blessings on Thanksgiving and throughout holly-”days”, being thankful throughout the year has tremendous benefits on your quality of life. In fact, gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools we all have access to every day to improve and maintain a happy heart, mind and body.

Cultivating gratitude doesn’t cost any money and it certainly doesn’t take much time, but the benefits are enormous. This is a wonderful time to be living here on earth. Our opportunities are limitless. And while there are some things wrong in the world today, there are many things right.

We can lift ourselves and others when we cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude, perhaps one of the noblest of virtues.

An attitude of gratitude means making it a habit to express thankfulness and appreciation in all parts of your life, on a regular basis, for both the big and small things alike.

My research on the topic of gratitude and the benefits of being thankful yielded countless articles in medical, mental health and psychology journals; numerous spiritual and religious writings and hundreds of sayings and quips. All pointed the same direction, offering the same conclusion: Being grateful and thankful positively impacts our physical, spiritual, emotional and mental health, as well as benefiting others.

Here are seven benefits of making gratitude part of your daily life:

1. Gratitude increases physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, they are more likely to take care of their health, they exercise more often and are more likely to get regular check-ups with their doctors.(2012; Personality and Individual Differences)

2. Gratitude decreases stress and PTSD. For decades, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but more recent studies show gratitude may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. Recognizing all you have to be thankful for, even during the worst times of your life, fosters health and happiness. (2003; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology)

3. Gratitude improves emotional and mental well-being. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret, reports Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher. Emmons has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being and his research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.

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4. Gratitude reduces aggression. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kind. Those who practice gratitude are less likely to retaliate against others, and they express more sensitivity and empathy toward other people. (2012; University of Kentucky)

5. Grateful people sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, so jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed may you sleep better and longer. (2011; Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being)

6. Gratitude improves self-esteem. Gratitude increases self-esteem and reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs, grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments. (2014; Journal of Applied Sports Psychology)

7. Gratitude promotes mental health and strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. Gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times of your life – fosters resilience. (2006; Behavior Research and Therapy)

We all have the ability and opportunity to adopt an attitude of gratitude. Of all the possible ways of recalling grateful events, such as writing in a gratitude journal, sending thank-you notes, sharing what you are thankful for with others, etc., just thinking thoughts and saying words of gratitude have immense benefits and are the easiest to do. Phrases such as, "I'm thankful for" and "I'm grateful for" are used most often. Other words may include appreciated, indebted, obliged, joyful, happy, pleased, delighted and honored. When expressing gratitude, it is helpful to include specific details about what you are thankful for and how it made a difference. An example is, "I am thankful for my car that gets me too and from work and play safely every day."

Today and each day, simply take a few moments to focus on all that you have, and take the time to say “thank you.” Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve our satisfaction with life and improve our overall health and well-being.

Is there a health topic you would like to know more about? Contact Starla S. Collins, health writer and public relations expert, at StarlaSCollins@gmail.com

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