Make Gratitude a Daily Habit

It's Thanksgiving--so how does a daily practice of thankfulness impact our own and others' well-being?

With friends and family coming together to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, many are taking the time to think more deeply about gratitude and how a daily practice of thankfulness impacts our own and others’ well-being.

I’ve noticed my Facebook news feed is full of friends posting their gratitude thoughts. One quote caught my attention:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” — Melody Beattie

Robert Emmons, Ph.D., and professor at the University of California, Davis, is the author of a significant scientific study on gratitude, its causes, and impact on human health. In his book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Dr. Emmons says “grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism . . . the practice of gratitude as a discipline protects a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness.”

Dr. Emmons joined Dr. Michael McCollough of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, to write an article about an experiment they conducted on gratitude and its impact on well-being.

The study split several hundred people into three different groups and all of the participants were asked to keep daily diaries. The first group kept a journal of events without any specific instructions; the second group was asked to only record their unpleasant experiences; the last group was asked to make a daily list of things for which they were grateful.

The study’s results showed that “daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. In addition, those in the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly, and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.”

I recently came across a creative way to encourage the daily practice of gratitude through a simple voicemail message:

“Please leave me a message. But before you hang up, tell me what you’re grateful for.”

Now this businessman can’t wait to hear his messages.  They’re no longer full of a litany of problems to fix, but overflowing thanks. Sometimes his customers have so much they’re grateful for that they have to call back just to continue their list.

I hope you’ll share your thoughts about gratitude with our Patch community. And let me just say . . . I feel grateful for the readers here and wish you a blessed Thanksgiving.

Ingrid lives in Framingham, where she and her husband manage three busy kids, a Lab who's sniffed every trail at Callahan and a ragdoll cat. She blogs on spirituality and health and is also a Christian Science practitioner. You can see more on her website "Breaking Bread" at masshealthblog.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dr. Edward Beck December 03, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Fantastic article and the research to back it up. Our family plays the "Grateful Game" at dinner often or in the car when we drive long distances. Each person takes a turn with something they are grateful for, and we continue until everyone feels they are done. I ask the same of my practice members as well. Thanks for the article!
Ingrid Peschke December 04, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Our family plays the "gratitude game" too. I think it's great that you recognize the health implications of focusing on the good in one's life and that you're sharing that life skill with your patients. Are you seeing results? :)


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