Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul Hawkes   

 

Thanksgiving weekend is only days away. Unfortunately there are signs that the most important thing about it is an extra day off from work and maybe a nice dinner with family and friends.

 

Not that there is anything wrong with that! But maybe there is something to gain by giving more thought to the name of the weekend — Thanksgiving — and consider the benefits of gratitude.

 

I stumbled across an article by Dr. Robert A. Emmons, Gratitude: The Science and Spirit of Thankfulness, in a book Measuring the Immeasurable: The Scientific Case for Spirituality.

 

Gratitude is the ability to recognize the contribution of others in our lives and the realization that we are not self-sufficient.

 

I might also say that gratitude diminishes one’s sense of entitlement or that one deserves the blessing he or she enjoys.

 

What about the benefits of gratitude?

 

They measured the benefits by having one group of people keep a regular journal on things they were grateful for.

 

 

The question they used was, “We want you to focus for a moment on benefits or gifts you have received in your life. These gifts could be simple everyday pleasures, people in life, personal strengths or talents, moments of natural beauty, or gestures of kindness from others.

 

We might not normally think about these gifts, but that is how we want you to think about them. Take a moment to really savor or relish these gifts, think about their value and then write them down every night before going to sleep.”

 

Do you know what they found?

 

Those who did this felt better about their lives, had optimism regarding the future, and enjoyed longer sleep and improved sleep quality.

 

They also found people reported feeling grateful, thankful, and appreciative and they also felt more loving, joyful and enthusiastic.

 

Not only were there positive self-reports from those who journaled, but family, friends, partners and others who surrounded them consistently reported that people who practiced gratitude seemed measurably happier and more pleasant to be around.

 

They further found that gratitude expressed through writing and delivering a letter of thankfulness to someone who had been especially helpful but not properly thanked, significantly increased happiness and decreased depression for up to one month!

 

Why is gratitude good?

 

Gratitude is a recognition that we need others and the things they contribute in our lives.

 

In other words, being grateful is an acknowledgment that there are good and enjoyable things in the world to be enjoyed that come to us from others.

 

So why is it good?

 

It protects against the negative.

 

Grateful people tend to be satisfied with what they have, and so are less susceptible to such emotions as disappointment, regret, and frustration.

 

Gratitude strengthens relationships. It cultivates a person’s sense of interconnectedness. Grateful people are more connected and close to others. Grateful people tend to have healthier hearts and cope with stress better. They have found they are at less risk for depressive symptoms or traumatic stress.

 

In the end, Emmons acknowledges that gratitude does not come easily for many. It can be hard and painful work and will require discipline.

 

To help get started he suggests three practices to set in place that will help cultivate and attitude of gratitude.

 

Attention — notice and become aware of the blessing that we normally take for granted.

 

Interpretation — make a conscious decision to see the blessings instead of the burdens, contributions instead of curses. Learn to ‘traffic’ in the language of thanksgiving.

 

Memory — draw upon positive memories of being the recipient of another’s kindness and benevolence.

 

In other words, aim to be grateful.

 

What I find not surprising at all is how science affirms eternal biblical truth: “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you.” God wants you to be emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy. Gratitude is His gift to us.

 

Let’s aim at learning gratefulness …starting this weekend.