“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie ~
Gratitude has recently been described as a short cut to happiness or the fastest way to happiness now. Two questions arise from this declaration, first is it true, and second – how? (If you need to feel some goodness right now you can skip right to the video at the bottom)
What is gratitude? – The short version.
Gratitude is a sense of thankfulness and happiness occurring in response to a gift, which can be a physical gift or an act of kindness. Gratitude is arrives in two stages, according to Dr. Robert Emmons a professor at the University of California at Davis, the first is acknowledgment of goodness in your life. The second stage of gratitude is recognizing that the source of this goodness lie to some degree outside of the self.
Gratitude can arise as a natural response or it can be a conscious act.
For example feelings of thankfulness may spontaneously well up in the presence of the natural beauty, like the majesty of Grand Tetons, or in response to emotional triggers, for example, witnessing an act of kindness.
Gratitude can also be conscious act, a choice to focus on the gifts and blessing in your life instead of the challenges.
You can choose gratitude, but why should you?
Maybe you believe it’s because it the “right thing” to do or because you want to be nice? Maybe it’s because it makes you feel good. Even when considered from this later vantage point of self-interest, gratitude makes sense.
One reason is that it’s impossible to be unhappy and grateful at the same time. Go ahead and try it for yourself. See if you can be crabby and grateful in the same moment; which is why it is such a fast track to happiness.
Another reason is that gratitude turns out to be a way to increase and sustain over all happiness and wellbeing.
There is research that shows that the expression of gratitude is causally linked to positive rewards for your mind, body and spirit; in other words improved mental and physical health.
In Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book, “The How of Happiness,” she gives no less than eight ways that gratitude boost happiness:
- Grateful thinking promotes the savoring of positive life experiences.
- Expressing gratitude bolsters self-worth and self-esteem.
- Gratitude helps you cope with stress and trauma.
- Expressing gratitude encourages moral behavior.
- Gratitude can help build social bonds, strengthening existing relationships and nurturing new ones.
- Expressing gratitude tends to inhibit resentful or demeaning comparisons with others. Stated another way, gratitude diminishes or inhibits feelings of anger, jealousy, bitterness, defensiveness and fear.
- Gratitude helps prevent you from taking the good thing that happen in your life for granted (an adaptation know as hedonic adaption – say that fast three times in a row.)
So, how do you make gratitude a conscious act?
While there are a number of gratitude practices, I wanted to share this one from the famous Soul Pancake series, created by Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute on the “Office.”)
This video will allow you to experience gratitude while demonstrating one of the most powerful gratitude practices according to the research (check out the link in the video if you want the “hard” data.)
The practice is simple enough, participants are asked to write down as much as they could about someone who’s made a positive and powerful impact on their lives. Then having penned their feelings they were asked to call the person they’d just written about and read what they had written.
The results – you just have to see them for you self – Enjoy!