The Benefits of Year-round Gratitude

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Bouquet of alstroemeria with gratitudeA survey of more than 2,000 people by the John Templeton Foundation showed that on average, 90 percent of people felt gratitude for their friends and family.

More than 50 percent said they expressed gratitude so they or someone else would feel better. From getting more sleep to reducing the risk of heart attack, gratitude has proven to be a way to think yourself into better health. Feelings and expressions of gratitude alter the way people feel about themselves.

Starting Out Simple

Research done at the University of California, Davis shows the benefits of even a short time spent having thoughts of gratitude. They asked participants to write down five things they were grateful for, using a short sentence for each item. This was done once a week for two months. After two months, this group had a more positive outlook on life, devoted more time to exercise and expressed fewer physical problems.

You can do this easily in your own home. Buy a blank journal and keep it by your bed. Once a week, before going to bed, write down five things for which you are grateful. Don’t worry about writing a best seller, just get your thoughts down. A feeling of gratitude can come from the smallest things such as:

  • “I am so grateful for the perfect vanilla latte I had at the coffee shop this morning.”
  • “I am so grateful that my presentation went well at the team meeting.”
  • “I am so grateful for the walk in the sun I took at lunch.”

Write at the same time once a week to create the habit. As you continue to do this exercise, you’ll find coming up with things becomes easier. An alternative is to just start writing and give yourself five minutes to write all you can. Some days you may write two or three things in five minutes. Other days may find you writing a full page.

After one month, do your own assessment of your physical and mental state.

Change the World Around You with Gratitude

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a researcher at the University of California, Riverside, says to try expressing gratitude to those around you and watch the results. At Thanksgiving dinner, thank each person for some way they are contributing to the experience. Thank someone for telling a story, or thank the person who brought the wine. The next day, buy flowers for the host and send them with a note of thanks. People respond to genuine acts of gratitude. Thanksgiving can be the starting point for all year long.

You can do a gratitude exercise with your partner or spouse to increase the good feelings between you. Each of you sit down with a notepad and write five things for which you are grateful about each other. For example:

  • “I am grateful for you helping me with the dishes after the party last night.”
  • “I am grateful for the effort you put into planning my birthday party.”
  • “I am grateful for you taking me to the bus stop when it was raining so hard.”

When you both have written down your thoughts, sit facing each other and read them aloud. It may feel a little awkward at first, but keep at it and it will become more natural.

Why does this work? Dr. Michael McCullough, researcher at the University of Miami says gratitude increases the feeling of value someone has. The other person feels more valuable to your life than they originally thought. This strengthens the feelings and emotions of friendship.

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