Do you “pay it forward”? For example, do you tell others how much you appreciate them? What about your family – do you make a habit of telling them you love them and that you are grateful to have them in your life? Do you say thank you the waitress who brings your food or to the clerk at the store who rings up your groceries? In other words, do you practice a life of gratitude? What is gratitude? According to Webster’s dictionary, gratitude is a noun meaning “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness, gratefulness, indebtedness or appreciation”. WOW! What a definition. How can anyone live up to such high standards? With this in mind, let’s look at 5 ways to express gratitude.
Can We Learn Gratitude?
There are many everyday stresses that make it difficult to show gratitude. Is it our feelings that control our thankfulness/ gratitude? Are we only thankful for what we have on Thanksgiving Day? Can we learn to how to be thankful no matter what the circumstance? Yes it’s true that we can learn gratitude just by practicing it every day. Gratitude shifts our focus from what we don’t have to being aware of all that we do have. Evidence shows that living a life of gratitude makes people happier and more resilient, improves health and reduces stress.
Research on Gratitude
Two psychologists, Robert Emmons and Michael McCollough, wrote an article about an experiment they conducted on gratitude and its impact on physical well being. The study split subjects into three groups. All participants were asked to keep a daily dairy. Group one kept a dairy of the events that happened in their daily life without being told what to write about. Group two was asked to keep track of their daily unpleasant experiences. The last group was asked to make a daily list of the things for which they were grateful. The results indicated that daily gratitude resulted in higher levels of alertness, energy, optimism, determination, and enthusiasm. The gratitude group also experienced less depression, stress, and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.
These studies show that practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels by 25%. Dr. Emmons stated “To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.”
Practicing Attitude of Gratitude
So if the doctors in the “gratitude study” are right, how do we go about learning and showing gratitude? I have always dabbled in the science of gratitude, saying please and thank you, doing small favors for others or lending a helping hand when asked. But now that I am older, it’s my desire to live a life full of the practice of gratitude.
Five tips that will help you cultivate gratitude on a regular basis:
1. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Remember all the good things that happen to you each day by keeping a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You could start by just jotting down one thing on a sticky note each day. Look back through them at the end of the week and see all the good things that have happened to you. Gradually build up to using a journal.
2. Don’t complain!
We all complain a little. Usually trivial things like who won the game or who did not pick up the kitchen. We should all have at least one friend that we can share larger complaints with in confidence, knowing that this stuff never leaves the room. But on a larger daily scale “don’t complain” is a motto to live by. Tomorrow try a small experiment of your own. Tell the first person you see “good morning” continue throughout the day to say “hello, how are you”, “isn’t this a lovely day”, “thank you for your help”, or “it is my pleasure to help you”. With each greeting your happiness level will increase – it’s a proven scientific fact.
3. Say it in Person
Skip the text or the email and speak your gratitude for something in person. Showing your thanks by verbal acknowledgement can lift the spirits of both you and the person you are grateful to.
4. Write a thank you note.
That’s right, physically writing the thank you by hand. This shows how appreciative you are by taking time to and effort to say thank you.
5. Offer to lend a helping hand.
Oscar Wilde once said, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” Nothing changes your attitude more than by actually helping someone else. When we put our focus on helping someone else we forget about ourselves. Don’t know anyone who needs help? There are many organizations that are looking for volunteers. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce for organizations in your community.
In conclusion, these five rules will help you with your journey toward gratitude. But I would challenge you to remember the oldest and wisest law of gratitude, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31).
Author: Mary Covey
Mary Covey is a long time member of Bixby’s First Baptist who volunteers her time to guest write for our blog. Mary is an expert quilter, published author, and proud grandmother.