Gratitude, what does it mean? In the merriam-webster dictionary it means, “the state of being grateful : THANKFULNESS.” Gratitude…being thankful…I’m sure a lot of us show our gratitude at least once a year, at the least at Thanksgiving right? But is it possible for us to be truly grateful on a regular basis? And if we did, how could that effect our lives? How could that effect our happiness?
According to Vishen Lakhiani, a New York best-selling author and founder of Mindvalley, describes a study where participants were asked to practice being grateful for 30 days in a row, and after the month was done, they found that those participants were 25% happier than the control group. During those 30 days, the participants didn’t get richer, healthier, or better jobs; their rising happiness was solely based on being grateful or doing a gratitude exercise everyday for those 30 days.
There are many things to be grateful for; someone telling you something nice about yourself, your child giving you a hug, the oxygen you are able to breathe, being able to feel the warm sun on your face, hearing the birds chirp, being able to see the trees bloom around you in spring, having a working vehicle that gets you to work, having a job, having money to pay your bills, having a roof over your head, being able to have food and water to keep you alive, having a bed to sleep in, maybe having a day to sleep in, having a friend that is always there to listen to you, having motivation to accomplish something, having the willpower to do or not do something, being able to see a beautiful sunny day, being able to hear the rain tap dance across your roof, or maybe you have great hair, a great smile, or a great ass. There are many things we have to be grateful for; more than each of us realizes. And just stopping for a few minutes each day and taking notice of those things, that we can easily take for granted, and really feeling gratitude for them, can change us and our lives for the better.
Studies have shown that gratitude can create amazing health benefits. The professor of psychology at University of California-Davis, Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., who also wrote The Little Book of Gratitude says, “Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life. It can lower blood pressure and improve immune function… grateful people engage in more exercise, have better dietary behaviors, are less likely to smoke and abuse alcohol, and have higher rates of medication adherence.”
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami conducted another study where all participants wrote down each week how they felt about certain topics. “One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.”
Other studies have shown that being grateful daily can reduce aches and pains, reduce depression, reduce frequency of headaches, create more energy, create better sleep, reduce resentment towards others around you, boost self-esteem, reduce stress levels, and also help to overcome traumas and PTSD. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we stop and appreciate the little things around us.
So now let’s take five minutes and think about what you are grateful for (it’s only five minutes, and the benefits could not only benefit you but those around you in so many positive ways). Think about the past 24 hours…what has happened in the past 24 hours that you can be grateful for? Think about as many things as you can, and don’t just think about them but feel how those things made you feel. It could be an act of kindness from someone or an act of kindness you gave to someone else; maybe your spouse made you a cup of coffee or tea when you got up this morning. Maybe you made your spouse breakfast and it put them in a good mood to start their day. It could be something you did for yourself; maybe you got to make that favorite smoothie for breakfast that makes you feel so good after you drink it, maybe you set some time aside to read a chapter in a book you’ve been wanting to read, or you took 20 minutes to go for a walk, or you cleaned off your desk finally. It could be being thankful that you have a warm home for you and your family to stay in on a cold rainy day. It could be being thankful for having the necessities like toilet paper, soap, and detergent. Maybe your thankful that you or your spouse were able to go to work today, or that a client showed you appreciation for something you did. Or maybe it’s being grateful for that beautiful full moon in that clear night sky. Visualize those things and visualize how they made you smile inside.
This is something you can do everyday first thing in the morning or just before you go to bed. You can write it in a journal or just think it to yourself. Do your own study on yourself. Try doing gratitude exercises for 30 days straight and see how you feel after one month. Maybe you will have an even greater reason to be thankful….you may be thankful for being happier and healthier than you were 30 days prior. Change your thoughts, change your perception, take notice of the little things and give them appreciation. It seems small and insignificant until you notice how those little bits of gratitude have built up a happier, healthier you and in turn a happier, healthier life and future.