November is National Gratitude Month and many studies have shown that practicing gratitude ─ being grateful for what you have ─ has a positive impact on psychological, physical and personal well-being. Grateful people tend to sleep better, have lower stress levels, exercise more often and eat healthier, say experts.
Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, has often been called the “guru of gratitude.” He has conducted numerous studies that show people who practice gratitude consistently have higher levels of positive emotions, are more alert, alive and awake, and experience more joy and pleasure in life.
Emmons, author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, says that simply keeping a gratitude journal, regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which you are grateful, can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.
Derrick Carpenter, writing for Happify.com, is a master of applied positive psychology (MAPP) and coaches people from stay-at-home moms to U.S. army personnel on how to live engaged and inspired lives. He offers these tips on how to bring gratitude into your life this holiday season:
• Notice new things every day that you are grateful for and be specific. For example, instead of writing or saying, “I am grateful for my family,” say “My daughter prepared dinner tonight so I didn’t have to cook.” Pay attention to the world around you and open your eyes to new areas and opportunities that you are grateful for.
• Be realistic about your daily gratitude practice. There will be ups and downs along the way so prepare yourself for obstacles that could hinder your progress. For example, if you are very tired or stressed out one evening, save your gratitude practice for the next morning when you will be fresher.
• Share the joy. “Our relationships with others are the greatest determinant of our happiness,” says Carpenter. “Emmons suggests that focusing our gratitude on people for whom we’re thankful rather than circumstances or material items will enhance the benefits we experience.” Writing a letter to someone who had an impact on you is one way to express your thanks. Another is to share grateful moments around the dinner table. This would be a wonderful Thanksgiving Day tradition.
According to Mindful.org, Emmons says there are two key components of practicing gratitude: we affirm the good things we’ve received and we acknowledge the role other people play in providing our lives with goodness. Their website offers a wealth of information on the science of gratitude and ways to train your brain to be more grateful. Experts say it is especially important to pay attention to the little things in life — the little moments that can change the tone of your whole day.
Whether you hope to boost your mood and mental health, protect your physical health, or improve your personal relationships, a rich body of research in the field of social science has found that gratitude offers significant benefits in all these fields. Cultivating gratitude can open the door to a different perspective — one that values the goodness in our lives. With practice, we can learn to see the bigger picture and navigate adversity with greater resilience, says Mindbody.org.
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