May 5, 2020

Practicing gratitude: Counting your blessings, not your misfortunes

“Our intentional, effortful activities have a powerful effect on how happy we are, over and above the effects of our set points and the circumstances in which we find ourselves”.  S. Lyubomirsky

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and tendency to show appreciation for what one has. It makes us think about what we have, rather than what we lack. It is a powerful tool to combat our tendency to take for granted the many positive aspects of our lives.

For some being grateful, as a state of mind, requires intent and practice. However, over time our minds can be rewired to make this automatic and natural.  In our daily lives, simple acts such as writing thank-you notes, sharing with others or in a journal things that we are thankful for or routinely reflecting on how the things we are grateful for make us feel, may condition us to practice gratitude habitually.

Some of the benefits of practicing gratitude:

Increased optimism and outlook on life.
People who practice gratitude tend to report higher levels of subjective happiness and well-being.
Improved physical health.
It has been shown to decrease physical complaints and physician visits, with noted improvements in objective measures such as blood pressure. Those who practice gratitude also exercise more and sleep better.
Improved social well-being.
It makes us more compassionate, forgiving and outgoing, and is associated with improvements in relationships (including marriages) and less loneliness.
Improved work ethic and productivity.
A simple expression of gratitude from leaders to their employees has been shown to effectively increase work ethic and productivity.
So, as we observe Mental Health Week, let’s practice some gratitude and experience the benefits – both for your own well-being and for the well-being of those who receive it.
If you have four minutes today, watch this video from Dr. Robert Emmons, a world leader in the study of gratitude and professor at UC Davis:
The Well-being Task Force
Faculty of Medicine
-Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life, Emmons et al 2003
-Linking financial distress to marital quality: The intermediary roles of demand/withdraw and spousal gratitude expressions, Barton et al 2015
-Why Gratitude Enhances Well-Being: What We Know, What We Need to Know, Emmons & Mishra, 2010