Scientifically revealed: gratitude is one of the most important human emotions for success...
Throughout the ages, philosophers kept on suggesting that gratitude is one of the most important human emotions for success, with ancient spiritual thinkers suggesting it’s a crucial aspect for leading a deeply spiritual life.
It was only recently - during the advent of cognitive, positive psychology - that gratitude sparked more interest as one of the strongest positive emotions humans strive for - linked to happiness, and wellbeing.
Most people equate gratitude to just feeling thankful for something, or saying thank you. From a scientific perspective, gratitude is a deeply appreciative emotion and feeling towards someone or something. It serves a specific purpose, and produces long lasting positivity that can be measured.
The Harvard Medical School, describes gratitude as a thankful appreciation where you acknowledge the goodness in your live - and within states of gratitude, connect to something larger than yourself (nature, or a higher power).
Dr Robert Emmons, a leading psychology researcher on gratitude for more than 10 years, and author of the book: Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier - says that gratitude has been conceptualized as an emotion, a virtue, a moral sentiment, a motive, a coping response, a skill, and an attitude.
It’s a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life, or a positive emotion felt after being the beneficiary of some sort of gift, or when a gift is not necessarily deserved, or when the gift was not given in some sort of reciprocal sense.
All in all, to summarize the essence of what gratitude actually is: It’s a deeply appreciative and strong feeling towards a higher divine power, within sentiments of acknowledgment, grace and thankfulness.
Why is gratitude so important?
Expressing gratitude is an act of graciousness, and an intrinsically rewarding process. It supports:
Wellbeing - Expressing your thanks improves your overall sense of wellbeing as it reduces depression and enhances life satisfaction. Studies have shown that grateful people are more agreeable, more open, and less neurotic.
Relationships - People who express their gratitude tend to be more willing to forgive others and are less narcissistic. It’s a powerful tool for strengthening and promoting interpersonal relationships, as they acknowledge the contribution and involvement of other people in the attainment of their own wellbeing.
Optimism - In one study in 2003 Dr Emmons and Dr McCullough found that after 10 weeks, participants who’ve focused on gratitude, showed significantly more optimism, including health and exercise, and is appreciative of the simple pleasures in life.
Happiness - In the pursuit of happiness and life satisfaction, gratitude is showing a direct and long lasting effect; the more gratitude you experience the happier you’ll be. Grateful individuals also do not feel deprived - instead they feel a sense of abundance.
Stronger self control - A study by DeSteno in 2014 found that self control is significantly increased when subjects chose gratitude. Being thankful can give you the resolve needed to make better choices.
Better physical and mental health - Without physical health you cannot truly experience and enjoy all that life has to offer. Research performed in 2015, showed that patients with heart failure, who completed gratitude journals, showed reduced inflammation, improved sleep and better moods.
Recuperation - Dr Emmons’ research shows that people who practice gratitude, tend to bounce back more quickly from adversity, and have a stronger immune system. He further stated that to say you feel grateful, is not necessarily saying that everything in your life is great; it just means you are aware of your blessings.
Why gratitude works
Reciprocity, is a concept that originated from social psychology, and is about the exchanging of actions. In the context of gratitude, it’s the exchange of positive emotions and vibrations. You perform an act of gratitude for a person, and in turn, that person may be motivated to do something gracious for another person. Gratitude leads to an internal motivation, and indebtedness to an external motivation to reciprocate. Effectively gratitude can therefore create a social network which can help individuals advance (career, goals) and better cope in life.
Research from neuroscience
There is a complex relationship between thoughts, moods, brain chemistry, endocrine function, and functioning of other physiological systems in your body. Your thoughts can actually trigger physiological changes in your body that affect your mental and physical health.
In a study where scientists measured the brain’s response to feelings of gratitude with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 2015 - researchers elicited feelings of gratitude in their participants and found that gratitude was associated with activity in areas of the brain that deal with morality, reward, and value judgment -also adding that gratitude is a social emotion.
This helps explain why daily exercising of gratitude, results in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, energy, and sleep duration and quality.
People who think about, talk about, or write about gratitude daily are more likely to help someone with a personal problem or offered emotional support. They place less importance on material goods, are less likely to judge their own or other's success, are less envious of wealthy people, and are more likely to share their possessions with others.
Gratitude lets you celebrate the present
Positive emotions can wear off quickly. Gratitude magnifies positive emotions again, and makes you appreciate the value of something - and when you appreciate the value of something, you extract more benefits from it and are less likely to take it for granted. You notice the positives more, and that in itself magnifies your pleasures. Instead of adapting to goodness, you celebrate goodness.
What to be grateful for
Yourself, your abilities, your talents, your opportunities
You are born with an unique ability to do something no one else can. You have certain talents and gifts only you can share in your own unique way. Be grateful for that and the myriad of opportunities that come your way to express these each day. Treat yourself to something you enjoy, give yourself time to enjoy a passion. Let go of any conditions you placed on yourself, meaning appreciate everything even if you didn’t accomplish or do anything specific.
Every relationship (people who love you, people who challenge you, people who support you, people who work with you, and people who serve you) teaches you something about loving, trusting, forgiving, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself, and taking care of each other. Show gratitude to all people in your relationship circle, especially people who love you.
Nature, earth, the universe
Earth Day was established on April 22, 1970, launching the modern environmental movement, recognized as the largest environmental activist gathering on Earth. But it’s far more than that. It’s about giving thanks to the earth, environment and the universe for their gifts of life - unconditionally given to humanity. Honoring these gifts will help you step up to the responsibility of fostering a mutually enhancing relationship with the environment, and become in harmony with nature, love, compassion, and gratitude.
How to use gratitude
There are two stages of gratitude
According to Dr Robert Emmons, the feeling of gratitude involves two stages: the acknowledgement of goodness in your life, and recognition of where it comes from...
- Acknowledge the goodness - In a state of gratitude, you say yes to life and affirm that life is good, it’s worth living and it’s rich with experiences and enjoyment that uplifts the spirit and gratifies the flesh.
- Recognizing that some sources of this goodness lie outside of you - It’s other-directed, meaning feeling grateful towards other people, to animals, and to the world, recognizing who is to thank for it, and who has made sacrifices so you could be happy.
The magic is in small acts of kindness
Take nothing for granted. Always seek out and value the kindness that stand behind any action. Meaning, nothing ever done for you, is a matter of ‘off course’ - It originated from some ‘will of doing good for others’ directed at you from the person serving you.
Bring gratitude to all your experiences
Gratitude should not be just a reaction when having received something positive. You should have an all-the-time gratitude attitude, noticing good things in unpleasant situations or even crisis. Start bringing gratitude to ALL your experiences, instead of waiting for only positive experiences to happen.
The gratitude walk
The gratitude walk is a simple way to find the things you are grateful for in your life. The goal is to observe the things you see around you as you walk. Take it all in. Be aware of the nature, the colors of the trees, the sounds the birds make, and the smell of the plants. Notice how your feet feel when you step onto the ground, and the smell that rise up from it.
Create a powerful gratitude journal
Reap the numerous benefits of gratitude and learn how to create a regular gratitude journal practice. Getting in the habit of keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent way to ensure you experience the benefits of gratitude when you need it most.
The key is in how you express your gratitude…
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