Gratitude is a tiny practice with a power packed punch of positive results. The research on gratefulness passes all levels of scrutiny. In fact, it makes the honor roll when it comes to life changing results backed by tangible research! Check this out.
- Researchers who study positive psychology found that a one-time act of thoughtful gratitude produced an immediate 10% increase in happiness and 35% reduction in depressive symptoms. The happy effects disappeared within three to six months which shows that gratitude is an act to be repeated again and again (GoodNet.Org, 2013).
- Research participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to other subjects in the experiment (Gilster, 2008).
- Research participants consistently linked joy with gratitude, and saw gratitude as a spiritual practice that is associated to human connectedness and a greater power (Brown, 2012).
- Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families (Gilster, 2008).
- Research suggests that gratitude might help couples gain and maintain intimacy. Participants who were more grateful for their partners were observed as being more caring and attentive listeners during charged discussions—a key for promoting intimacy in relationships (Gordon, 2013).
Increased and longer lasting joy? Greater intimacy? More goal attainment? A happier kid? I’m in! I’m a believer! As the Benedictine monk, David Steindl-Rast wrote, “The root of joy is gratefulness. It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
A quick Google search on the ‘How to’ aspect of a gratitude will give any reader thousands of article, videos, and blogs with wonderful ideas like gratitude journals, joy jars, and vision boards, so I’ll leave the details up to those folks. I do however, wish to highlight three very important aspects of any gratitude practice – Express it, Feel it, Practice it.
- Express It – Write it down. Say it aloud. Tell people. When we express gratitude, we bathe our brain in feelings of belonging – of being part of a tribe. It also keeps of mindful – present in this very moment. Both of these processes allow the thinking regions of the brain to be activated – increasing our ability to reason, to create, and to problem-solve.
- Feel It – Feel grateful. Experience the emotion of gratitude. It is not simply the practice of writing a gratitude journal or verbally expressing gratitude. It’s not really about the doing – it’s about the feeling – FEELING grateful. As we recount the things that make us grateful, we must feel the feelings all over again – Feel the joy, the love, the connectedness. When we feel the feeling rather than just thinking the thought, we activate the brain’s hippocampus, our memory and learning center.
- Practice It – Gratitude must be a practice – a commitment, something you create – as often as possible. As Rabi Zelig Pliskin writes in his book, Thank You!; Gratitude: Stories, Formulas, and Insights (2005), “Someone who loves birds will notice them, when most people wouldn’t have seen them. Someone who loves flowers notices them even though others would just pass them by without registering them. Someone who is looking for things to complain about will notice what he is looking for. And someone who hates litter will see the litter rather than seeing the birds and the flowers.” Look for miracles, the good, the gifts, the moments – they are everywhere! Committing to a regular practice of anything, but most certainly gratitude, allows our brains to fully capitalize on the practice. We move short-term happy moments into long-term memory. Our brain pathways traveling to joy, love, safety, and belonging become well worn trails – easy paths to travel.
This combination is simple and it works – Express it. Feel it. Practice it. To encourage my practice, I say it to myself often. Also, I have it written on post-it notes in my child’s room and on the dash of my car. It keeps me mindful, allowing me to be better focused on the goodness, the feelings the love, and the tiny miracles occurring all around me.
As Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her wonderful book, Eat, Pray, Love (2006), “In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” Let us be grateful. I commit to expressing it. I promise to feel it. I vow to practice it.
Start now – Finish this sentence: In this moment, I am thankful for…..
Tiffany is a Transformative Life Coach and Consultant with Evolutionary Consulting.
Neuroscience for Everyday People.
Brown, D. B. (2012). Daring Greatly. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
Gilbert, E. (2006). Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia. Penguin.
Gilster, D. (2008). Gratitude Pays Off In Big Ways. Retrieved from http://www.centerforproductivity.com: http://centerforproductivity.com/people-management/gratitude-paysoff
GoodNet.Org. (2013, November 28). 5 Scientific Facts That Prove Gratitude Is Good For You. Retrieved from http://www.goodnet.org: http://www.goodnet.org/articles/5-scientific-facts-that-prove-gratitude-good-for-you
Gordon, A. (2013, February 5). Gratitude Is For Lovers. Retrieved from http://www.greatergood.berkeley.edu: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/gratitude_is_for_lovers
Pliskin, Z. (2005). THANK YOU!; Gratitude: Formulas, Stories, and Insights, . Shaar Press.