It’s getting to be that time of the year where we are supposed to count our blessings, but expressing gratitude year round, each and every day, has many benefits say experts on the subject.
“For many people, gratitude is difficult, because life is difficult…[but] acting grateful can actually make you grateful,” says Arthur C. Brooks in a New York Times article. That may be true, and acting grateful may help people, but it’s still difficult for many of us to incorporate the expression of gratitude into our lives.
Robert Emmons, a leading scientific expert on gratitude, explains that gratitude has two key components. “First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received,” and secondly, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves…We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”
In John Tierney’s article on gratitude at a family Thanksgiving, he notes an experiment at Northeastern University that showed that students who had been helped were more likely to volunteer to help someone else—even a complete stranger. He quotes Sonia Lyubomirsky of the University of California, who advises, “Say thank you for every thoughtful or kind gesture.” So it’s good to remember that helping others and saying thank you will help us be more grateful.
And gratitude is good for us. An article in Psychology Today states that “Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, gratefulness—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.”
For hands-on help in cultivating gratitude, you can check out “A Practical Guide To Gratitude” at Unstuck. It acknowledges that when “it’s hard to see positive forces when obstacles are blaring,” that is just the time to be grateful, to appreciate what’s not stuck about our lives.
Having read all these articles in a short time makes me feel more ready to express my gratitude. Here’s my thank-you list.
- With all the cleaning out and decluttering we’ve been doing, I’m thankful for the stuff I have to give away, both to those struck by disaster and to those who are simply in need.
- I’m grateful for my friends. To my best women friends, my group of women, my extended family of friends, the women I work with and the women I volunteer with, thank you to all of you who have helped me and supported me through this most trying year.
- I’m thankful for my family, to my husband for being here, always, and to my kids for their love and care and concern.
What are you thankful for this year? How will you incorporate gratitude into your life?
≈Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home design, crafts, and food, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.