In Praise of Gratitude: Happy Thanksgiving!
The Self Help shelves are packed full of Gratitude. So is YouTube. Why? Because gratitude just might be the closest we get to pure harmony.
It’s certainly one of the best ways to get harmonious. Think about it. How do you feel when you’re thanking someone for something? Warm? Cheerful? At peace? All of the above? Whatever the feeling, it’s a heightened state. Often we even feel more generous, which may seem strange considering we’ve been doing the receiving instead of the giving. But that’s because we’ve also been giving — of ourselves.
Indeed, expressing gratitude raises our energy levels to such a degree we can actually feel it. So can others. And that’s about as close to pure harmony as we can get.
Count Your Blessings
“Many studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed.” So says the Greater Good anyway. And we believe them too. Then again, who wouldn’t believe a group of Berkeley scientists who’ve devoted their lives to studying gratitude?
How do we count our blessings? Well, one of best ways is by keeping a gratitude journal. In need not be fancy. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just a simple little notebook where you can list all the reasons you’re grateful. Make it a big book if you want. But make it. And keep it consistent. Then watch the benefits overflow into your life.
Really. Gratitude expert Dr. Robert Emmons (UC Davis) has found that people who keep gratitude journals for even just three weeks show “overwhelming” results. In fact, after studying over a thousand people, from ages eight to 80, he found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of physical, psychological and social benefits.
Here’s how it breaks down:
- Stronger immune systems
- Less bothered by aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Exercise more and take better care of their health
- Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More alert, alive, and awake
- More joy and pleasure
- More optimism and happiness
- More helpful, generous, and compassionate
- More forgiving
- More outgoing
- Feel less lonely and isolate
Dr. Emmons insists the social benefits are especially significant. After all, “gratitude is a social emotion,” he says. “I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.”
Gratitude as a State of Being
Our friend Reverend Theodore Nottingham has a neat perspective. He suggests we think of Thanksgiving as a state of being. Instead of thanking the cosmos for all the stuff we’ve got, we thank it for all the opportunities we’re given. Opportunities to share, care, feel and heal. Opportunities to witness and watch and wow. Sure, you can throw in the opportunities to have and to hold. But make it to have and to hold friends and family, rather than fast cars and big houses.
We wrote about Reverend Ted’s power of deep prayer a few weeks back. We were taken with the good man then, and we’re taken with him now. Why? Because he consistently advocates for a whole and harmonious approach to living. It’s simplicity at its most elegant. Learned without being pedantic. Inspired without being showy. Bright without being blinding. If anything, his teachings provide even more illumination. And we’re all for having additional lights thrown upon our path. Especially when they’re so divinely inspired.
The Good of Gratitude
So what good is gratitude? Well, Dr. Emmons believes gratitude to be transformative. Literally. And he cites four reasons in particular.
First, gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. And magnifies positive emotions.
“Gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something,” he writes. “When we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it — and we’re less likely to take it for granted.”
The good doctor seconds by saying gratitude blocks toxic, happiness-destroying emotions such as envy, resentment and regret. Furthermore, evidence even shows that gratitude can reduce the frequency and duration of depressive episodes. And he cites psychologist Alex Wood’s 2008 Journal of Research in Personality study to prove it.
“[It] makes sense,” he writes “You cannot feel envious and grateful at the same time. They’re incompatible feelings. If you’re grateful, you can’t resent someone for having something that you don’t.”
Dr. Emmons also insists that grateful people are more stress resistant. In fact, he says a number of studies show people with grateful dispositions are much quicker to recover from serious trauma, adversity, and suffering. Why? He believes “gratitude gives people a perspective from which they can interpret negative life events and help them guard against post-traumatic stress and lasting anxiety.” Simple.
Last, and this is a biggie, Doc Emmons claims grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. Why? Because grateful people a more likely to believe they’ve got allies — and sometimes significant contingents of allies at that. “Once you start to recognize the contributions that other people have made to your life,” he writes, “and once you realize that other people have seen the value in you, you can transform the way you see yourself.” In other words, change your perspective, change our life.
Happy Thanksgiving from Healing Properties
Speaking of gratitude, Healing Properties thanks Reverend Ted and Dr. Robert Emmons and the Greater Good and everyone else who’s lives have so blessedly helped us to be grateful. We’re better off for their work. Much better off. And we are double-plus grateful for all they do. We’d also like to wish each and every one of you a very Happy Thanksgiving. It might not seem like the traditional holiday (probably because it most definitely isn’t), but we’re sure that if you take a moment, you’ll find more than a few reasons to be thankful. Regardless. And if by chance you’re short a few reasons, simply step outside. Note the sun and the wind and the birds and the bees swirling all around you. And give Thanks to that great big circle of life.
(Image courtesy Pixabay — with great gratitude.)