[GRATITUDE IS HEALTHY] -- 3 min read
Welcome to the “From the Fight” blog. The past few months we have been talking about what it means to be “healthy” holistically in society. Today we will be discussing gratitude and why it is healthy.
A lot of you reading this have heard the saying, “Gratitude is the best attitude.” This saying, while it holds true, has more meaning than we realize. Most of us associate gratitude with saying “thank you” to someone who has helped us or given us a gift. From a scientific perspective, gratitude is not just an action. Gratitude is a positive emotion, which is important because it serves a purpose.
What is gratitude?
According to the Harvard Medical School, gratitude is:
“a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power”
This is a great definition because it not only gives us a definition; it also gives us a reason why it is so important.
Being able to take a moment to appreciate others deepens our connection with them. We are not meant to be alone, we are meant to be in community. By deepening our connections with others, we allow ourselves to be a part of a community.
According to Dr. Robert Emmons, the feeling of gratitude involves two stages (2003):
1. First comes the acknowledgment of goodness in one’s life. In a state of gratitude, we say yes to life. We affirm that all in all, life is good, and has elements that make it not just worth living, but rich with texture and detail. The acknowledgment that we have received something gratifies us, both by its presence and by the effort the giver put into choosing it.
2. Second, gratitude is recognizing that some of the sources of this goodness lie outside the self. At this stage, the object of gratitude is other-directed; one can be grateful to other people, to animals, and to the world, but not to oneself. At this stage, we recognize not only the goodness in our lives, but who is to thank for it, and who has made sacrifices so that we could be happy.
Why is it important?
I’ve already briefly mentioned some of the reasons Gratitude is important but I will dive a little deeper into why it is important to practice gratitude in our lives.
Expressing gratitude can really improve your overall sense of well-being: studies show that grateful people are more agreeable, more open, and less neurotic (McCullough et al., 2002; McCullough, Tsang, & Emmons, 2004; Wood, Maltby, Gillett, Linley, & Joseph, 2008; Wood, Maltby, Stewart, Linley et al., 2008). Furthermore, gratitude has been shown to help decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as increase one’s feeling of life satisfaction (Wood, Joseph, & Maltby, 2008).
An example of a recent study done to show how gratitude can improve people’s health is a study done in 2015 that showed that patients with heart failure, who completed gratitude journals showed reduced inflammation, improved sleep and better moods thus dramatically reducing their symptoms heart failure after only 8 weeks.
Aside from increasing well-being, psychology research has identified several other positive outcomes that are a result of practicing gratitude. One of these positive outcomes is that practicing gratitude (in this case, specifically gratitude towards a higher power) can reduce levels of stress (Krause, 2006).
There are many more benefits of gratitude but these were just a few I thought we’re important to mention.
How to implement gratitude into your life:
Keep a Gratitude journal and add to it every day. Write things that you are grateful for. Something I like to do is the ABCs of Gratitude. I go through the Alphabet and for each letter I choose something that I am grateful for that starts for that letter. Ex. A- I am thankful for Apples. B- I am thankful for my brothers. C- I am thankful for Christmas etc.
Tell someone you love them and how much you appreciate them.
Notice the beauty in nature each day.
Nurture the friendships you have; good friends don’t come along every day.
Smile more often.
Watch inspiring videos that will remind you of the good in the world.
Include an act of kindness in your life each day.
You don’t have to do all of these; they are just some ideas to help you implement a practice of gratitude into your daily routine.
I think it is safe to say, Gratitude truly is the best attitude.
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Until next time, Keep Up The Fight!