“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy
When you are helping yourself to the turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, don’t forget the thanks this year. It turns out that the opportunity to be thankful may be the healthiest part of your meal. In Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, psychologist Robert Emmons describes how the benefits of expressing gratitude range from better physical health, especially improved cardiovascular health, to improved mental alertness. People who express gratitude are more likely to be emotionally supportive of others, too.
“Gratitude is the “forgotten factor” in happiness research” says Emmons. Expressing gratitude in your daily life might even have a protective effect on staving off certain forms of psychological disorders. Emmons’ research suggests that by making a habit of focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life you cultivate higher levels of psychological well-being and, it turns out, a lower risk of certain forms of psychopathology.
And when the day is over and the last dish is put away… make a commitment to keep on practicing thankfulness. Emmons says that giving gratitude is an opportunity to make Thanksgiving a year-long health benefit, not just a focus for one day!
Here are some ways you can begin integrating a thankfulness practice into your life:
- Start small. Pick one thing each day and make a gratitude gift. It doesn’t have to be something big—thank someone for a kind word, for their assistance on something, for being there in the past for you. You’ll both feel great.
- Keep it simple. Sometimes we don’t send a thank you note because it seems like too big a deal. Buy some nice cards so that you can easily send out a simple note when you think of it. And it doesn’t have to go out by snail mail either, tweet or post on face book your thank you and your appreciation will exponentially grow.
- Keep a What Went Well Journal. Emmons found that people who keep a gratitude journal experience the positive health benefits from gratitude more than others. Seligman has developed the What Went Well exercise. Read about the WWW exercise in another blog post—it is fun and easy to do.
- Notice nature. We take a lot for granted that is beautiful in our natural surroundings. Noticing beauty in your surroundings is a gratitude generator. Just take a moment to appreciate that plant that started to bloom or the gentle breeze of morning.
- Remember gratitude when times are rough. Nothing good or beautiful in your life right now? Don’t give up on practicing gratitude—it’s a super negativity neutralizer.
If you feel that you are not fully achieving what you value in your life to have a meaningful and happy life, please call me for a free complimentary session at 805.448.7681 or schedule a session using my on-line calendar.
P.S. Thanks in advance to anyone who chooses to add their comments to the discussion or wishes to forward the blog link. I really DO appreciate it! (Small and simple)
Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Certified Personal and Executive Coach based in Santa Barbara, California and a sought after coach and consultant for organizations and individuals across the US. Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values using a process of Appreciative Inquiry. She coaches individuals on achieving their reflected best selves. An MSW@USC faculty member, Dr. Lynn K. Jones, MSW, DSW, CSWM, teaches Human Behavior and Social Environment.