Gratitude is an emotion that, when expressed, can have a very positive effect on our health.
Mankind has always recognized gratitude as a positive emotion, but it took psychologists a long time to dig into the science of giving thanks.
Recently, they’ve found that gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions we have as humans, and can make us happier and change our attitudes about life, somewhat like an emotional reset button.
Professor Michael McCullough from the University of Miami says that when people stop to give thanks and count their blessings they are, in a way, hijacking their emotions, and as a result of the gratitude, become happier. Findings suggest that gratitude is an emotion that, much like victory, feeds on itself. The more you express it, the more you feel it.
One reason that gratitude does this is by automatically connecting you with others, especially when your gratitude is heartfelt and personal: genuine gratitude. For genuine gratitude to exist there must be some amount of humility and the recognition of how we are blessed by things outside of ourselves.
There are still a lot of questions that scientists are asking about the brain chemistry behind gratitude and the best ways to express it. In the meantime, many psychologists are now incorporating gratitude journals into sessions with patients, having the patient use the journal to write down things they’re thankful for.
So, how can you better express gratitude?
If you haven’t started this yet, you can follow a lot of people who have joined the 30 Days of Thanks game and used each day of November to be thankful for something different (many are posting their daily gratitude on Facebook and other social media). Though this officially takes place in November, you can start the activity anytime, and doing this every day from today until the end of the year will give you a list of over 30 things that you’re thankful for.
The researchers studying gratitude also suggest that when we do give thanks for something we should check ourselves to see if it’s genuine gratitude or if we’re doing it simply out of obligation (which won’t bring the same emotional benefits of honest and pure gratitude). Some examples to check yourself on are how you say grace before dinner, or how you express thanks for gifts you receive.
However you do it, this week is the perfect week to start giving thanks. For the little things, for the big things. For the people in your life. For food on the table and a bed to sleep in. For your education. For laughter, challenges, forgiveness, and growth. For any and all of these, and for so much else, give thanks.
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