By Sue Newton, MN, RN
Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has, otherwise known as thankfulness and gratefulness. Research has shown that gratitude has one of the strongest links with mental health of any character trait and that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude and thereby increases our overall well-being. In addition, grateful thinking and especially expression of it to others is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy. Grateful people tend to be happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and relationships. Grateful people also have higher levels of control of their environments, personal growth, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. They tend to have more positive ways of coping with the difficulties they experience in life, being more likely to seek support from other people, reinterpret and grow from the experience, and spend more time planning how to deal with the problem. Grateful people also have less negative coping strategies, being less likely to try to avoid the problem, deny there is a problem, blame themselves or others.
Gratitude opens the door to simplicity. A person who is grateful for the things they own will care for them, enjoy them, and waste less energy seeking more. They will experience fulfillment in the gifts they already possess rather than looking outside themselves for more.
1. Intentionally choose it. Gratitude is really a choice and it doesn’t depend upon circumstances, genetic wiring or something that we don’t have control over. It is an attitude that we can choose that makes life better for ourselves and for other people. When things go well gratitude enables us to savor things going well. When things go poorly, gratitude enables us to get over those situations and to realize they are temporary.
2. Count your blessings. A new day, a warm bed, a loving spouse, a child in your life, a unique personality, or a special talent. We all have wonderful things in our life already. Gratitude quickly sets in when we begin to spend a quiet moment each day remembering them. This practice alone has the potential to change one’s attitude and life immeasurably.
3. Stop focusing on what you don’t have. Too many people never realize gratitude because they spend so much mental energy focusing on what they don’t have. We live in a culture that fosters discontent. A consumer culture impacts gratitude as when we can feel discontentment in our lives, we are likely to buy new products or the latest and greatest in an effort to feel better.
4. Embrace humility. Humility is an essential ingredient in gratitude.
A humble heart finds satisfaction in the gifts it already possesses and demands less from others and life. Remember that no matter what your accomplishments, your life contains no more inherent value than the person sitting next to you, no matter where you may be sitting.
5. Find gratitude in adversity. It is easy to be grateful when things are going well. It can be more difficult during the trials of life: death, disease, rejection, or failure. The truth is that no one is exempt from the trials of life, but good can always be found in even the worst of times. Embracing gratitude during those trials may be the one thing that gets you through them.
“Some people grumble that roses have thorns, I am grateful that thorns have roses”-Alphonse Karr