In the last article “Benefits In Gratitude”, we discussed the wide-ranging health and well being benefits of having a grateful mindset which is also considered a virtue. Virtues are qualities that support the inherent goodness that resides within each human being.
Gratitude is both a social and a theological virtue. The Hebrew scriptures, the New Christian Testament, and the Qur’an all cite gratitude as central among virtues. Centuries ago, the philosopher Cicero argued that gratitude is the parent of all virtues, a virtue that begets other virtues.
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
Marcus Tullious Cicero
The cultivation of gratitude develops character, the embodiment of desired virtues. The advice to cultivate character by expanding one’s capacity for gratitude is time-honored wisdom and the true Meaning In Gratitude.
The art of maintaining a grateful disposition engenders other virtues such as generosity, humility, compassion, wisdom, joy, integrity, and trust according to a book entitled “Reflections Of Gratitude” written by Angeles Arrien, PhD. Let’s review just a few of the benefits of living a life in gratitude. A 2015 American Psychological Association Spirituality in Clinical Practice study examined associations between gratitude, spiritual well-being, sleep, mood, fatigue, cardiac-specific self efficacy, and inflammation in 186 men and women with Stage B asymptomatic heart failure (HF).
Given that interventions to increase gratitude are relatively simple and of low cost, efforts to increase gratitude in HF patients’ are effective and may be of potential clinical value and represent a treatment target for improving well-being.
A 2014 Sage Journal publication of 4 studies tested the hypothesis that a weaker belief in free will would be related to feeling less gratitude and it was determined that belief in free will is an important part of being able to experience gratitude.
The theory of “Find, Remind, and Bind” within the context of reciprocally-altruistic relationships, gratitude signals communal relationship norms and may be an evolved mechanism to fuel upward spirals of mutually responsive behaviors between recipient and benefactor.
In another words, showing appreciation for someone close to you is reciprocated by that someone resulting in an upward positive spiral for both. A grateful heart is a nonviolent heart according to a 2011 Social Psychological and Personality Science study, finding 5 studies which tested the hypothesis and found that gratitude is linked to lower levels of aggression.
Today we will explore all of the ways of how and why you should live a life in gratitude.
You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Let’s look at some outstanding ways to achieve and maintain greatfulness:
Start Simple With One Thing To Be Grateful For
Just like when starting anything new, practicing gratitude is most effective when you start small and let it develop into a simple routine of a good habit. Instead of trying to change your entire mindset in a single day, or trying to identifying all those blessings at one time that are already all around you, focus on finding one tiny thing that you appreciate between the time you wake up in the morning and wind down for bed at night each day. Simply being grateful can give your mood a big boost, among other benefits.
For example, a recent 2019 Journal of Positive Psychology two-part study found that practicing gratitude can have a significant impact on feelings of hope and happiness. Those blessing are all around you, you know. Just pick one to start that makes you happy.
It could be as simple as an awesome quality in a friend or co-worker, an afternoon snack that hits the spot, nice weather, a beautiful sunrise, or your favorite song on the radio at the perfect time, a new day, a warm bed, a loving spouse, a child in your life, a unique personality, or a special talent.
You have wonderful things in your life already, just find them. Gratitude quickly sets in when we begin to spend a quiet moment each day remembering one. Try experiencing fulfillment in the gifts you already possess, one at a time, rather than looking outside yourself for more.
Living in our modern culture, which promotes discontent, and negative reactions when “bad” things happen, of course, makes it more difficult in being content and appreciating what you already have. In fact, as this one study confirms, bad thing are stronger than good things.
However, gratitude quickly sets in when we begin to spend a quiet moment each day remembering just one blessing. Just one! This practice alone has the potential to change your heart and life immeasurably, if you can find gratitude in your current existence, you will be less influenced by outward empty promises.
Does practicing gratitude serve as a mediator in the relationship between mindfulness and mood and strengthen ties to others? According to a Journal of Happiness study completed earlier this year (2019) predicted that mindfulness does contribute to the expression of heightened gratitude which, in turn, would influence a heightened sense of perceived support.
You may assume that those with more material possessions have more to be grateful for. However, Social Indicators Research suggests otherwise. Edward Diener, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois, found that a high percentage of affluent people in Japan reported low levels of life satisfaction, just as those living in poverty in India do. These findings suggest that it’s not how much you have, but how you feel about what you have that may make the difference.
Make it a point to be fully present during your moment of appreciation, living in that moment concentrating on why you feel grateful, fully taking in what you love about what’s in front of you and why you enjoy it.
Try concentrating on your breathing, your inhale and your slow exhale, or meditating, initially to center yourself. You will become more accessible and available to yourself, as well as the people around you, while reducing stress and increasing well being (the brain-heart coupling), according to an NIH study.
Harvard Medical School has an excellent article on easy relaxation techniques using breath control which helps quell errant stress response. And besides that, being mindful by meditation or slow breathing, or whatever means you achieve it, you’ll have less brain atrophy and live longer, too, according to another NIH study. Quoting the NIH:
Altogether, these findings seem to suggest less age-related gray matter atrophy in long-term meditation practitioners.
This important moment in time is Now! Not yesterday, not 10 years ago, those moments in time are gone forever. And it’s not 2 hours from now or ten years from now! In reality, 2 hours or 10 years from now may not exist for you, or for any of us. We really don’t know for sure, do we? Once you start honing in on the little details at that specific moment, by slowly breathing (1), and you missed on before, you’ll begin to notice more and more greatness around you in the simplest of things, just like a revelation!
Write it Down
Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California at Davis, has been a leading researcher in this growing field, termed “positive psychology”. His research has found that those who adopt an “attitude of gratitude” as a permanent state of mind experience and jot those reasons for feeling grateful down experience many health benefits.
Research, such as a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, has shown for many years that expressive writing, such jotting down negative thoughts or feelings, can help cope with stress, better your cognitive abilities, and improve your mental and physical health.
This theory also is true for being thankful. Use a pen and paper for some old-fashioned journaling because writing down what you’re thankful for is an awesome way to chronicle all of the details in your life, whether they’re big or small. In fact, writing something down is a confirming way to better remember it, which means you’ll find it easier to call up and continue to appreciate all of the special little things you begin to notice on a daily basis.
Remember, one of the lead researchers in understanding the Meaning In Gratitude, Dr. Emmons’, shows that writing down what you’re thankful for can lead to a multitude of wellness benefits. Quoting Dr. Emmons:
Gratitude can be that stress buster.
In order to reap the full benefits of journaling, Emmons recommends writing for five to 10 minutes every other day. Emmons continued:
You really need to commit to doing it, and if you write it down eventually it will become more automatic.
Emmons also recommends to not shy away from the negatives. Emmons says that while we often associate gratitude with focusing on the good and avoiding the bad, the key to leading a thankful life is embracing setbacks as part of your overall journey.
The NIH confirmed the Emmons study of journaling things to be grateful for increased feeling of well being, and also added several other studies confirming that counting blessings seems to be an effective intervention for enhancing well being.
Even the most difficult life challenges come with some benefit. You just have to look to find them. Being sick draws the compassion of friends. Making a mistake teaches you a lesson. When things feel hard, ask yourself: What’s the good here? Another bonus? Re-visiting your journal can serve as a powerful reminder and reinforcement and mood enhancer, anytime you’re feeling down.
Can You Say “Thank You”, and “I Love You”?
Every language in the world has a way of saying “thank you.” This is because gratitude is an inherent quality that resides within each human being, and is triggered and expressed spontaneously in a variety of different contexts. Francesca Gino and Adam Grant, of Harvard Business School and Wharton, respectively, discuss their research on gratitude and being thankful and how even a tiny amount of gratitude can have a huge impact benefitting your health and well being. By verbally showing how thankful you are to the important people in your life, you bring more happiness into your own life.
No matter who the individual is, they love to be appreciated and hear your appreciation, and you will see how good it feels to give it, that is, if you really and truly mean it, not just going through the motions. Tell your wife, your best friend, and your boss that you are grateful for them, and watch what unfolds next.
A key ingredient to improving couples’ marriages might just be gratitude, according to University of Georgia research published in the journal Personal Relationships. The results indicated that spousal expression of gratitude was the most consistent significant predictor of marital quality.
You could potentially make their day, while also reminding yourself that you are surrounded by people who are there to support you. Expressing appreciation for loved ones can also help create a closeness by allowing others to see how you look at them.
More than other emotion, gratitude is the emotion of friendship,
Michael E. McCullough, a University of Miami researcher, and associate of Emmons, told the New York Times in 2011.
It is part of a psychological system that causes people to raise their estimates of how much value they hold in the eyes of another person.
Did you know that it takes about 2 months (66 days), according to a study by University College London, to form a new habit? Most experts agree that two months of regular practice is the average amount of time you’ll need to put in before a new behavior or pattern becomes automatic. That said, consistency is key when it comes to helping your new gratitude habit and mindset stick. The London study also said:
It doesn’t matter how slowly you go, as long as you DO NOT STOP
So, keep looking for the mini-moments, noting the best things around you and experiencing gratefulness, focusing on yourself and your goals, and giving as much of your good energy and talents to the people around you as you can. In what will feel like little to no time at all, the good stuff you need to think about now will naturally become a part of your more joyful and thankful new life, because as you’ll see shortly, your brain gets use to the idea, too. Bring on the happiness!
Place Your Eyes On Someone Else
Try doing something nice for someone else, such as your spouse. Not only will it brighten your mood to bring someone else joy, but you’ll probably feel ultra-grateful for your time, talents, abilities or whatever else you have to offer.
According to an National Institutes Of Health (NIH)study, people who feel more appreciated by their romantic partners report being more appreciative of their partners, as well. In turn, people who are more appreciative of their partners report being more responsive to their partners’ needs, and are more committed and more likely to remain in their relationships over time. Quoting NIH:
These findings provide evidence that gratitude is important for the successful maintenance of intimate bonds.
In other research such as the Wiley Online Library study, which was supported by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), grateful couples were more satisfied in their relationships and felt closer to each other. Sometimes, all it takes is lending your listening ear for a few minutes or smiling to a stranger on the street. Don’t ever underestimate how much simple kindness can do; both for someone else and for your own gratitude practice. Research, like this 2010 Journal of Social Psychology study shows that performing acts of kindness like giving a sincere compliment is a quick, easy way to brighten someone’s day while giving your own happiness a boost, helping you feel more satisfied.
No focusing On What You Don’t Have
Too many people never realize a state of gratitude because they spend so much mental energy focused on what they don’t have. Oprah Winfrey said it best
Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
When you’re unhappy with your current state of affairs, you live in that state of negativity and lack, and it’s harder to push forward. When you’re so focused on things that are wrong with your life, how can you live life in gratitude, and still push tirelessly towards goals that are potentially years away from becoming a reality?
Those without gratitude will find their happiness diminished. Jealousy, and all the other the related feelings, will suck the joy out of what you have and leave nothing but bitter feelings behind. If you’ve been there, you know it’s no fun.
You can’t. In fact, what tends to happen is that we get distracted, waste time, and engage in pursuits that hinder us rather than help us. There is also research that suggest that some people have more trouble than others, experiencing gratitude.
One NIH study found that people who are more prone to gratitude have more gray matter in their right inferior temporal cortex, an area previously linked to interpreting other people’s intentions. Another study in Frontiers Of Neuroscience showed that more grateful people have more altruistic brains, as well.
Together, these studies suggest that differences in structure and activity across various brain regions may relate to differences in gratitude across individuals, but, as we’ll see later, at least some of these differences can still be changed. In fact, consistently making an effort to be grateful can physically change our brains over the long run.
Humility is an essential ingredient in gratitude. A humble heart finds satisfaction in the gifts it already possesses and demands less from others and life. According to Dr. Emmons,
The humble person says that life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed.
Grateful people are naturally humble people too. Remember that no matter what your accomplishments, your life contains no more inherent value than the person sitting next to you, no matter where you may be sitting. According to a Forbes Magazine article, humility is so important in our lives in being grateful and achieving success.
Researchers have highlighted the connection between being humble and helping others, and they said that it’s difficult to find compasion if you’re not humble. It wouldn’t be too far off the mark to say that gratitude and humility go hand-in-hand. The more you refine your ability to stay unassuming, the easier it will be to count the blessings in your life.
Be A Positive Person
We don’t even realize half the time when we’re saying or writing unpleasant things or being negative. Human nature is to want what we don’t have and to dwell on the negatives, instead of celebrating what we do have and focusing on what’s going well. Having a positive mindset and a positive mental attitude, and practicing gratefulness has the power to block out negative emotions and even change the brain.
This NIH study investigated how gratitude expression may lead to longer-term effects on positive brain activity. Another study by Harvard Medical School found that acquiring emotional vitality and maintaining a positive attitude, including gratefulness, requires not dwelling on age, and also on what you don’t have; focusing on what’s most important, keeping a sense of purpose, and, of course, being mindful and not being judgmental.
Robert Emmons also found this to be true suggesting that those who are more aware of the positives in their lives tend to focus their attention outside of themselves. An older 2010 Clinical Psychology Review study presents a new model of gratitude incorporating not only the gratitude that arises following help from others but also a habitual focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life, incorporating not only the gratitude that arises following help from others, but also a habitual focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life.
Using a “pay it forward” format, subjects suffering from anxiety and depression were repeatedly endowed with a monetary gift and then asked to pass it on to a charitable cause to the extent they felt grateful for the gift. The study measured brain activity of the subjects and found regions where activity correlated with self-reported gratitude experience during the task.
There was even a movie “Pay It Forward” released in 2000 staring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment about a young boy who attempts to make the world a better place after his teacher gives him that chance. You can see the trailer here.
What’s astounding about the results of the study is, suggests that the more practice you give your brain at feeling and expressing gratitude, the more it adapts to this mindset.
You could even think of your brain as having a sort of gratitude ‘muscle’ that can be exercised and strengthened and the more of an effort you make to feel gratitude one day, the more the feeling will come to you spontaneously in the future.
According to the CDC, this will also hold true for practicing being positive, and by consistently holding a positive attitude, the more your brain will react positively, increasing not only your own well being, but your relationships, as well, and society’s as a whole. The more you practice a positive mental attitude and gratitude, the more attuned you are to it and the more you can enjoy its psychological benefits.
Reinforces Nature Break/Physical Activity
They may not seem similar, but gratitude and fitness can go hand-in-hand. According to the Emmons’s 2003 study, people who practiced gratitude also engaged in 33 percent more physical activity. A possible explanation is that being grateful for one’s health makes you want to protect it by exercising more.
The results also found that study participants had fewer dietary restrictions and were less likely to smoke or abuse alcohol. Exercising has been proven to in many studies to clear your mind and reduce stress, all key components in setting yourself up for gratitude.
Thankful people who move their feet experience an overall healthier mind and body, therefore making gratitude one of the best medicines
, Emmons says.
According to a Mayo Clinic Study, exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever and make it much more conducive to maintaining gratefulness. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries, as well. Physical activity is also “meditation in motion”, clearing your mind of the day’s irritations and problems, because of having to concentrate only on your body’s movements, allowing you to still remain in your state of gratefulness.
Sitting on the beach, hearing the waves lap gently against the sand as the stars make their appearance into the sky, it is so easy to wonder how small we all must be in the vast expanse of the galaxy. The trying times we all have faced, inevitable stresses of day-to-day life and all of our own shortcomings dissolve into the waves as they recede back into the expanse of the ocean, as we live in the moment.
According to the American Psychological Association, one of the 2 brain’s attentions, “inherent fascination” is the one people find in nature, such as simply looking out a window, can aid people in recovering from mental fatigue, not only allowing relaxation, but also, at the same time, enjoy a sense of awe and gratefulness.
We all can find that we all have time to simply marvel at the world and be grateful for this moment in time. This is what nature can do for all of us by making us mindful and truly experience gratitude.
Do volunteer Work
Dr. Emmons, told the Huffington Post that helping others paves the way for us to find our inner way. A new paper by Dr. Suzanne Richards and others at the University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter, UK, reviewed 40 studies from the past 20 years on the link between volunteering and health.
Published in BMC Public Health, the paper finds that volunteering is associated with lower depression, increased well-being, and a 22 percent reduction in the risk of dying. A U. S. National Service article found that Research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health and that older volunteers are the most likely to receive physical and mental health benefits from their volunteer activities.
Avoid Comparing Yourself To Others
A definite no is trying to compare yourself to someone else. It never works, and it only leads to frustration, and it’s a total waste of time, because there will always be someone who is better looking then you, have more money, or a better job, or whatever!
It’s pretty hard to keep a positive mental attitude, or being mindful and grateful, when we feel like we have been “short-changed” or deprived of what someone else has that you don’t have.
Falling in the trap of comparing yourself to others, according to a 2012 Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes study, compromises out ability to trust others. Another study found that destructive self-criticism can be a result of comparing others to your self, found a Guilford Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology study.
Have Some One-On-One Personal Time
Have some alone time. Go for a long walk or cook yourself a gourmet meal when nobody else is around or pamper yourself with a warm bubble bath. Maybe start meditating every day after work to clear your mind. These practices have lasting effects on your self esteem, which, in turn, makes you feel more thankful. Grateful people know that their thankful attitude can also fuel self-compassion.
A study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that higher levels of gratitude were associated with greater self-esteem. And, don’t confuse being alone with solitude when you intentionally spend time alone, you can recharge and pamper yourself. This helps you problem-solve later more efficiently. Research has shown it can even help in your relationships. Are you thankful for being the person that you are? That should be at the top of your gratitude list.
Encourages Eating Healthy Foods
Eating healthy is a main Meaning In Gratitude. In the Emmons studies of the early 2000s, students reported on their eating behaviors. For example, they indicated how much fruit, vegetables, fast food, and desserts they ate. Ultimately, individuals who participated in writing gratitude letters reported healthier eating habits at the end of the month compared to those who listed just their daily activities.
While gratitude alone probably won’t overhaul your eating habits, over time it can have a significant impact. As the study’s researchers explain,
The effect of gratitude on healthy eating, though small, is particularly striking when considering that small changes in diet among youth may aggregate across an individual’s lifespan.
In other words, developing a regular gratitude practice can bring about small, positive, and cumulative changes to your eating behaviors that benefit your health two-fold.
Not only do you enjoy the benefits of being grateful but also eating healthier foods, assuring your health and well being for decades to come. Simply put, being grateful eliminates negative emotions like sadness, or boredom, which would drive you to eat junk food or candy. And with your new-found “gratitude attitude”, guess what type healthy foods you’ll be eating?
How about fresh organic nutrient-dense lean foods (A) such as lean organic grass-fed finished and free-range finished meats, eggs, and dairy products, fresh organic fruits, vegetables, herbs, raw nuts, edible flower seeds and whole grains, (A) natural fermented foods, and high-antioxidant spices and liquid drinks such as espresso and green tea, (A) fresh wild-caught fish and seafood (A).
Most likely you’ll choose to take Peruvian Maca (A), as a natural supplement, as well, once you learn about it’s incredible health and well being benefits. Also check out recipe for healthy Maca-Blueberry Smoothie made with Peruvian Maca. Here’s a great idea, too. Plant your own backyard garden and once you begin harvesting the bounty of fresh nutritious fruits, veggies (2), nuts, seeds, and herbs, you’ll have one more terrific thing you can be grateful for and very healthy and happy about!
Sleep Much Better
The Journal Of Psychosomatic Research study has found that feeling grateful helps people sleep better and longer. The reason likely being because you have more positive thoughts before you go to sleep, which may soothe the nervous system. If you’re going to make a daily gratitude list, guess when is the best time to write it?
You guessed it, right before bedtime. One recent study had volunteers make a list of five things that they were appreciative of during the day. Using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, those who experienced a poor night’s sleep were less grateful than those who were well rested!
Another study by NIH looked at whether individual differences in gratitude are related to sleep quality. The relationship between gratitude and each of the sleep variables was mediated by more positive pre-sleep cognitions and less negative pre-sleep cognitions. The NIH study said,
Gratitude predicted greater subjective sleep quality and sleep duration, and less sleep latency and daytime dysfunction.
Being grateful will do a great job in bringing you restful sleep, but there are many other proven daily beneficial activities you can implement and add to the being grateful benefit, that will assure restful sleep.
Which one of the Meaning In Gratitude suggestions will be easier for you to implement? Which one do you think will be the most difficult? We’d love your feedback and any comments you have.
(1) Stop, Breathe, Think Video
(2) CaliKim29 Garden & Home Diy Video
(A) Use these links to reviews and documented studies on these incredible nutrient-dense healthy foods and also to purchase them.