Importance of Gratitude

Tara Andrews
Thursday, November 21, 2019

As I pondered what to write my newspaper article on this week, I came across an article on the importance of gratitude and since November is when we celebrate Thanksgiving, I thought it was a fitting topic.

The definition of gratitude is, an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has, as opposed to what one wants. Harvard Medical school says that gratitude is a thankful appreciation of what one receives – tangible or intangible – as they acknowledge the goodness in their lives. Studies show that youth and adults who demonstrate gratefulness are happier and show more hopefulness, engage more frequently with hobbies and activities and are less likely to be depressed. There are also health benefits – those that practice gratitude have better physical health, sleep better, have improved psychological health and better relationships.

It is simple! To be grateful you need to consider what you have in your life that you appreciate and intentionally acknowledge that. If you are someone who feels that it can’t really be that simple, lets prove that it can be. Here are ten ways to fit gratitude into your life – pick a few that work for you and practice using them!

1. Every day say aloud three good things that happened. You can do this around the dinner table or just to yourself out loud.

2. Keep a gratitude journal. Jot down small things from your day that mattered to you – it could something as simple as the quiet time you had during your drive to work or that we had needed rain. If you are having a particularly rough day you can look back through the pages of accumulated blessings in your life.

3. Say thanks to your partner. Couples who express gratitude toward one another set up a powerful feedback loop of intimacy and trust, where both partners feel as if their needs are being met.

4. Cool a hop temper with a quick gratitude inventory. One of the quickest ways to dispel the energy of a stormy mood is to focus your attention on what is good.

5. Thank yourself. Gratitude doesn’t always have to focus on what others do for you. You can thank yourself for the healthy habits you are cultivating in your own life – like that walk you took this morning.

6. Use technology to send three gratitude messages a week. Harness the power of technology to send out good vibes in a text or a Facebook or Instagram comment.

7. Savor the good moments. If you notice you are feeling happy, stop what you are doing and pay attention for a few minutes. Notice exactly how you feel, including sensations in your body and thoughts you are having.

8. Check for silver linings. Even the most difficult of life challenges come with some benefit – we just have to look to find them. Being sick draws the compassion of friends. Making a mistake teaches us a lesson. When things feel hard, ask what is good here.

9. Look outward, not inward. Robert Emmons says that people are more likely to feel grateful when they put their focus on others, rather than caught up in their own inner narratives about how things should have gone. Empathy for others can trigger a sense of gratitude.

10. Change your perspective. If you struggle for something to feel grateful for, put yourself in the shoes of someone who is experiencing misfortunes greater than your own. Recalling a friend or coworker who has a debilitating physical condition, will expire gratitude for our own healthy body.

The key to gratefulness is practice. The more you integrate gratefulness into your life, the easier and more routine it will become. It won’t take long for you to notice a difference in yourself and others.

( Tara Andrews is the MSU Extension Agent for Custer County.)