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Grasping Gratitude

Last week I discussed obstacles to gratitude, but also mentioned some of the benefits to gratefulness.  Gratitude motivates others to perform acts of kindness, leads to increased self-worth, improves emotional well being, leads to lower stress and pain levels, and improves sleeping habits.  So how do we become more grateful in our life?  Since gratitude is a learned behavior we can practice ways to strengthen our focus and purposefulness in a number of ways. For some, incorporating the gratefulness attitude and skill requires significant effort.

Emmons and McCullough wrote an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology called “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens…” on the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal.  They discussed three studies and found that those who kept a gratitude journal experienced better overall well being and increased levels of happiness and optimism.  When we record events and experiences that prompt gratitude we become more aware of our blessings and tend to view life through a positive lens.

Sharing gratitude through a letter, email, card, etc. can also be a powerful tool to acknowledge others in a positive way and appreciate the value of others.  Think about the people in your life that have had a positive influence on the person you’ve become or the career you’ve chosen and consider letting them know.  Emmons sums it up best when he states; “Gratitude’s intrinsic function is to affirm the good in life, embrace that good, and then transform the good in purposeful actions to accomplish something that is at once meaningful to the self and of consequence to the world beyond the self.”

When we stop and think about it we can usually find something to be grateful for daily even if it’s small and simple, but acknowledging it openly to self/others can help shift our focus in life.  Setting a daily alarm on your phone to remind you to be grateful may be helpful.  When you value the people in your life and let them know consistently, everyone is happier.  Thank you for reading my weekly blogs and I’m grateful for the positive feedback I’ve received over the years.

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