The Gift of Gratitude (P4)
In part 3 of this blog series, I explored the first five lasting legacies available to you when you operate with an attitude of gratitude. In this final blog, I will focus on the other five lasting legacies of gratitude open to all who embark on this simple practice.
Gratitude is one of the most scientifically backed practices in positive psychology. It is instrumental in many ways because it helps combat the brain's tendency to focus on the negative and get used to good things.
Legacy 6: Gratitude makes you more resilient
There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals. According to Dr. Alex Korb, there's a gratitude circuit in your brain, badly in need of a workout and by strengthening that circuit transports the power to elevate your physical and mental health, boost happiness and improve sleep. Practising gratitude magnifies positive feelings more than it reduces negative emotions.
Research suggests gratitude also helps us to cope with a crisis. By consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude, it builds up a psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall. Robert Emmons (a Professor of Psychology at the University of California) is the world's leading scientific expert on gratitude. His research focuses on the psychology of gratitude and joy as they relate to human flourishing.
He is the author of over 200 original publications in peer-reviewed journals or chapters.
From his extensive research, Emmons has reported that gratitude "can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. Gratitude reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders, and is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide."
“The human capacity for burden is like bamboo- far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.” – Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper
Legacy 7: Journaling
Journaling is one of the best-documented methods of cultivating gratefulness. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. Journaling can have a powerful impact on an individual's life. As Emmons stated, "research shows that translating thoughts into concrete language—whether oral or written—has advantages over just thinking the thoughts: It makes us more aware of them, deepening their emotional impact".
If you want to start journaling, try this: Write down five things (minor or significant) that you feel grateful for that can shift perspective. The goal of the exercise is to remember a good event, experience, person or thing in your life and then enjoy the good emotions that come with it. The physical recording is essential and powerful, so don't just do it in your head. Remember, magic happens when it is translated into the concrete language! Journaling is effective because it helps us see others, ourselves and our world through a thankful lens. Keeping a gratitude journal is found to help people feel more energetic, alive, awake and alert.
“A journal is your completely unaltered voice.” – Lucy Dacus
Legacy 8: Reframing unpleasant experiences
Reframing thoughts is when you actively notice unhelpful thoughts in your mind and reframe them into more valuable thoughts. Reframing your thoughts can be a helpful tool as it will help you reduce stress and feel better. Processing a life experience through a lens of gratitude does not mean you are or have to deny negativity. Still, it does enable you to recast negativity into positive channels of appreciation.
When reframing an unpleasant experience, there are a few questions to ask yourself:
1) What lessons did the experience teach me?
2) What ability did the experience nurture in me that surprised me?
3) How am I now evolved due to what I have endured?
It is hard to move forward in life after tragedy or trauma without being able to inject a redemptive perspective on it. It is important to note that this may take time depending on the event experienced, and you may need support from a trained professional before reframing can begin.
Gratitude helps to maximise happiness in multiple ways. One reason is that it allows us to reframe memories of unpleasant events in a way that decreases their undesirable emotional impact.
“Being thankful is not always experienced as a natural state of existence, we must work at it, akin to a type of strength training for the heart.” – Larissa Gomez
Legacy 9: Gratitude evokes humility
Humility is the quality of having a modest or balanced view of one's importance. It is a trait we admire when we see it demonstrated because it essentially reveals freedom from pride or arrogance. Gratitude spurs us to become humbler because expressing gratitude takes the focus off ourselves and encourages us to recognise that at least part of our successes is due to other people's actions. There is a clear link between these two characteristics: grateful people tend to have humility, and those with humility tend to be thankful.
Humility lets us see how others have supported us and may encourage us to engage in positive behaviours, such as helping others or bettering ourselves. It also helps to enhance leadership, increase work performance, develop better relationships and soothes the soul. Gratitude is a social emotion that works in complete harmony with humility and helps you prosper in many ways.
“Thank you is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility and understanding.” – Alice Walker
Legacy 10: Gratitude reinforces commitment
Research shows that our emotional systems like newness, novelty and change are short-lived. It is easy to miss the good because we get used to it. As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt! Positive emotions tend to wear off quickly, which can cause us to become blindsight to all we do have while focusing on the few things we don't have and desire. We adapt to favourable life circumstances reasonably soon, so the new car, house, job or spouse, after some time, doesn't feel unique and exciting anymore.
Gratitude enables us to appreciate the value of something. It helps to reinforce our commitment because it can help us remember what it was like prior to having that person or thing in our lives and the good it felt when we first received that blessing. This helps us extract more benefits from it and limits our chances of taking it for granted. The power of gratitude is that it's a state of mind that fills you with positive feelings as you review the small and great things that have improved your life. For example, if you don't like cutting the grass in your garden, just think back to when you didn't have a garden and be thankful that you now have one and can now sit outside as and when you please.
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust
In closing, I would like to encourage you to aim to embody gratitude in every moment, in every situation and through all circumstances. It can be as simple as saying thank you or giving someone a gift or card to show your appreciation. The goal is to strengthen your gratitude muscles to become strong. With whatever you do today, always think BIG: Begin In Gratitude! By doing so, you will reap all the benefits discussed in this blog series.
This is the fourth and final part of the gift of gratitude blog series. I hope you found this blog series helpful and that you were able to take some practical steps and actions as a result of it. Leave a comment below and let me know one thing you will take away. This is your way of expressing gratitude!
Ezra AKA Voice of Reason