Updated: Feb 25
People throw around the "Attitude of Gratitude" saying all the time, but what does it really mean and how does it really help your life, relationships and health?
Gratitude - the ability to be thankful and ready to show appreciation (to see the silver lining) and return kindness. It's been called a virtue and even a learned skill. I would agree that choosing to see this world and others with gratitude is just that, a choice. The opposite of gratitude is entitlement, and the feeling that life or others are responsible for your happiness. I believe that being grateful puts you in the driver's seat of your life, and the ability to put action towards your future hopes and goals. The opposite of this, is feeling like a victim of everything around you, not in control of your future but at the effects of whatever comes your way.
So, the reason for this post is gratitude will nurture our relationships. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at UC-Davis says "grateful people place less importance on material things, tend not to judge the success of others based on what they've accumulated, are less envious of others, and share more readily with others". Honestly what more could you add to that? Think of being in a relationship with a person who has these attributes, what would that look like? One example could be, instead of complaining about who emptied the dishwasher last or folded the laundry, it might look like "ok, so and so folded the laundry the other day so I will show my gratitude today by emptying the dishwasher so the kitchen is clean for making dinner together tonight". No finger pointing no keeping score.
People who find it difficult to be grateful are rarely able to be happy or satisfied with life or others. If you struggle with finding things to be grateful for, I would recommend taking my "Empowered Self-Awareness" course to help with changing how you see yourself, the world and others.
Being grateful is so valued that cultures around the world have holiday celebrations focused on gratitude. We have Thanksgiving, where we gather with family and friends to pause and practice the age-old adage of counting our blessings. I wonder how often do we really practice looking for the silver lining in all things without the holidays to remind us? Gratefulness is a choice and a learned behavior.
A number of studies have shown that being grateful helps you sleep longer and more soundly. On the other hand studies have also shown that lack of sleep can increase risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
To help you with being able to sleep better, you could try journaling things you are grateful for (to look back on) then lie still with your eyes closed and focus on things you're grateful for and why. Enjoy the good feelings. Inhaling gratitude, while exhaling any unwanted feeling of negativity. Gratitude has proven to lower cortisol levels and improve immune function.
Perhaps the most significant impact of gratitude comes from improved mental well-being. Emmon's studies have reported that people are able to be more positive and satisfied in life with less feelings of despair or depression while producing healthy brain function. Gratitude helps us savor the good things and not take things and people for granted.
Another study published in Frontiers in Psychology showed that "gratitude intensity correlated with brain activity in distinct regions of the prefrontal cortex associated with social reward and moral cognition". This may even impact mu-opioid receptors (feel good endorphins).
The 25 questions for getting to know someone on a deeper level were designed to keep a person in their frontal lobe while talking to each other. This will leave you both feeling GOOD after you talk, even if your not a good life partner match. The goal is to have fun!
In closing, having gratitude for the little things like a connection with someone new, open to this journey called life, can be a kind of medicine. Be thankful for life experiences they are the key to good mental health and nourishing relationships.
"Gratitude is the antidote to envy, anger, greed, and entitlement" by Tatiana Denning in The Epoch Times 2020 (Mind & Body)