Growing Your Gratitude

It’s almost Thanksgiving, a holiday when traditionally we’re supposed to recognize and appreciate the good things in our lives. Unfortunately this is something most of us don’t do. But what if the attitude of gratitude — maintained year round — is actually good for us physically, psychologically and spiritually?

There’s a fair amount of scientific research on the benefits of gratitude, and the benefits are wide-ranging. Here are just some of them:

  • Improved physical health. Feelings of gratitude have been correlated with better sleep, increased vitality and energy, reduction in hypertension, and less stress, illness and physical pain. In addition, grateful people are more likely to exercise and better look after their health.
  • Improved mental health. Gratitude correlates with a reduction in symptoms of depression, an increase in self-esteem, optimism and emotional resiliency, as well as a decrease in envy, materialism and self-centeredness.
  • Improved relationships. Grateful people exhibit more kindness toward others. They are more social and more trusted. They make friends easier and their relationships are deeper. Marriages are made stronger by expressions of gratitude betwween partners.
  • Improved spirituality. Gratitude is an integral part of spiritual development. Gratitude opens us to feelings of interconnection with other people, animals and nature. Grateful people are also more open to the experience of transcendence or divinity.

In short, gratitude makes us happier and more fulfilled. And while the propensity for gratitude is present in some personalities, it is a trait that can be cultivated by all of us through practice. Here are some ideas for growing your gratitude:

  • Every day, think of five good things in your life. Get in the habit of doing this before bed or just after waking up.
  • Keep a gratitude journal in which you collect and record all the good things that have happened during the week.
  • Think of one person whom you much appreciate having in your life. Recall all the reasons you’re grateful for knowing this person. Then communicate your appreciation to them via text, email, letter or in person.
  • Keep company with people who regularly express gratitude and have a positive outlook on life. Their attitude will rub off on you!
  • Practice affirmations or guided meditations for cultivating gratitude. Try these suggestions from the Life Purposely Now website.
  • Give back. Show your appreciation for the fortunate things in your life by contributing your time and/or money to making the world a better place.

Here’s wishing you a grateful Thanksgiving. Remember to count your blessings year round!

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