Expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships.
November is a perfect month to focus on cultivating gratitude. Let's extend an attitude of gratitude beyond the Thanksgiving table (yes, I am that person) and focus on incorporating it into our daily lives.
Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude:
Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your love and appreciation of that person's impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. And don't forget to write one to yourself.
Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has made a positive impact on your life, and mentally thank the individual. Thoughts are a powerful means of communication.
Keep a daily gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down each day what you are grateful for in your life. This is known to help cultivate a positive daily thought pattern as well as an attitude of gratitude.
Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or created a sense of joy in your life. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you. Learning to connect your thoughts to emotions is a powerful tool to help reduce stress and anxiety.
Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. You could focus on what you're grateful for, such as the the warmth of the sun, a pleasant song, a delicious meal, etc.
You will be amazed at the way life opens up to you when you have a grateful attitude.
With a grateful heart,
Emmons RA, et al. "Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Feb. 2003): Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 377–89.
Grant AM, et al. "A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way: Explaining Why Gratitude Expressions Motivate Prosocial Behavior," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (June 2010): Vol. 98, No. 6, pp. 946–55.
Lambert NM, et al. "Expressing Gratitude to a Partner Leads to More Relationship Maintenance Behavior," Emotion (Feb. 2011): Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 52–60.
Sansone RA, et al. "Gratitude and Well Being: The Benefits of Appreciation," Psychiatry (Nov. 2010): Vol. 7, No. 11, pp. 18–22.
Seligman MEP, et al. "Empirical Validation of Interventions," American Psychologist (July–Aug. 2005): Vol. 60, No. 1, pp. 410–21.
Ashley Tracey, MS RYT