An Attitude of Gratitude for Positive Mental Health and …

Posted: October 7, 2017 at 2:48 pm


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The older I get, the more Im hearing people complain of a lack of joy and fulfillment in their lives. Personally, I think this is often caused by an imbalance in physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs. In other words, people are not allowing themselves the right amount of sleep, nutrition, exercise, work, security, intellectual stimulation, attention, sense of achievement, socialization, fun, time alone and so on.

While exploring ways to increase happiness, many people identify a lack of spiritual satisfaction which often leads them on a journey of gratitude.

Robert Emmons is recognized as the worlds leading scientific expert on gratitude. He describes gratitude as a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life and explains it as an acknowledgement and an appreciation of things that are given to or done for someone. He goes on to say that the good feelings associated with gratitude inspire people to create the same feelings for others.

Most people learn basic gratitude as children when theyre taught to say thank you, show respect and help others. But in this busy and disposable world, it seems many have developed a sense of entitlement, feeling its their right to live their lives a particular way, instantly have the best instead of working and saving for itand taking so much of their lives for granted.

Positive psychology research proves that gratitude is strongly associated with the emotions that help people enjoy greater health and happiness. It can also play an important role in nurturing relationships and can even inspire people to take better care of themselves.

A study conducted by scientists Ken Sheldon, David Schkade and Sonja Lyubomirsky discovered that the components affecting happiness can be divided into three sections:

1) A natural Set Point that you are born with (50%),2) Life Circumstances (10%), and3) Intentional Activity (40%).

In simple terms, its our behaviour thats most likely to increase our level of happiness.

People who incorporate gratitude into their daily lives have a more optimistic outlook and are more appreciative of everyday things. As they are less likely to take things for granted, they are more inclined to be moved by the little things that can seem quite mundane to others. And because their attitude towards life may be more easy going, feeling that whatever comes their way is a blessing, disappointment may not be a factor that greatly affects their mood. Being able to see the bright side of life rather than focusing on a lack, is a major factor in improving happiness.

Grateful people tend to be less materialistic and more hopeful. Theyre also likely to be more resilient and less likely to feel theyre a victim when things dont go their way. Being better able to cope with tragedies and crisis, helps improve the quality and experiences they have in life.

Its proven that people who live with gratitude are less likely to suffer from anxiety or depression. Its been shown that grateful people are more optimistic and apart from an increase in energy, optimism has a number of health benefits. And its not just mental health thats positively impacted, but physical health too. Gratitude has a positive effect on immunity, blood pressure, heart disease, cancer outcomes, pain tolerance and even pregnancy.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.William Arthur Ward

People experiencing heartfelt gratitude and high levels of happiness have far greater self-esteem and confidence than those with an attitude of doom and gloom. Being grateful focuses our attention on happier, more positive thoughts which helps them feel better about themselves and banishes negative self-talk. Being appreciative of the things people have done for them can help them see just how much theyre cherished and valued, hence increasing their self-worth in their own mind.

Its been shown that people with a grateful disposition are more likely to reach their goals faster. Those in managerial positions report that thanking their colleagues and showing genuine appreciation for their efforts, improves productivity and motivates enthusiasm and loyalty.

A study conducted by Psychologist Jeffrey Froh showed students who regularly practised gratitude were more optimistic, more satisfied in life and more positive about school.

Another study suggested that grateful adolescents form stronger friendships, are more satisfied at home and less materialistic. Theyre also likely to have greater self-esteem, give more emotional support to others, be more engaged in schoolwork and achieve higher grades.

People with an attitude of gratitude are more likely to recover faster from a setback. Seeing the brighter side of negative situations allows them to find the lesson and move on to count their blessings in other aspects of life.

People who express their gratitude for their friends, partner or loved ones are rewarded with more positive feelings and given more trust and respect. One study showed that expressing gratitude to a partner allowed a couple to feel more comfortable talking about relationship concerns and made them more forgiving and responsive to each others needs.

Being grateful isnt always easy. Attitude towards life can greatly depend on the environment in which people live, the people they associate with and the experiences theyve had. Stress also plays a major part in people feeling ungrateful for what they have or the situation theyre in.

But as Robert Emmons explains, Without gratitude, life can be lonely, depressing and impoverished. Gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms. People are moved, opened and humbled through expressions of gratitude.

As gratitude is a chosen attitude, lets explore the ways in which it can most successfully incorporate into daily life.

Our expert on gratitude, Robert Emmons strongly believes that keeping a gratitude journal is one of the best ways of changing attitudes. He shares some research-based tips to help people benefit the most from their journal.

No need to get a fancy journal. Something as simple as an exercise book is fine, but if purchasing one specifically designed for gratitude, there are a number of great options below (affiliate links):

Jack Canfields Gratitude Journal: The Companion to Jack Canfields Key to Living the Law of AttractionGratitude Journal: Positive Thoughts & Vibration by You Daily Gratitude JournalGratitude Journal: 100 Days of Gratitude Will Change Your Life

Martin Seligman, the founding father of positive psychology, developed a simple, but highly effective exercise known as the gratitude visit. This exercise, found in his highly acclaimed book Flourish (affiliate link), promises to enhance well-being and reduce depression.

Martin Seligmans exercise:

Close your eyes. Call up the face of someone still alive who years ago did something or said something that changed your life for the better. Someone who you never properly thanked; someone you could meet face-to-face next week. Got a face?

Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life. Also, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them. But sometimes our thank you is said so casually or quickly that it is nearly meaningless. In this exercise you will have the opportunity to experience what it is like to express your gratitude in a thoughtful, purposeful manner.

Your task is to write a letter of gratitude to this individual and deliver it in person. The letter should be concrete and about three hundred words: be specific about what she did for you and how it affected your life. Let her know what you are doing now, and mention how you often remember what she did. Make it sing! Once you have written the testimonial, call the person and tell her youd like to visit her, but be vague about the purpose of the meeting; this exercise is much more fun when it is a surprise. When you meet her, take your time reading your letter.

You can read more about this exercise here.

Complaining seems to be a natural part of most peoples character, something many do several times a day without really noticing. Though it enables them to get things off their chest, complaining usually causes more harm than good and rarely yields a positive result. When people complain, theyre reinforcing negative emotions, re-living stress and frustration, and impacting their mood and self-esteem.

People can practice mindfulness and STOP when a negative thought presents or spiteful words start tumbling out their mouth and replace the negative dialogue with positive thoughts or words about the good things that have happened and things theyre (or should be) grateful for.

Visual reminders are great when first starting out. Magnets, posters and notes around the house are great ways to lose the negative attitude and refocus on the positives.

Giving or doing for others creates feelings of gratitude for the recipient and a sense of pride and happiness for the giver. Apart from the good feelings that are created when volunteering time or giving a gift, its also a way of seeing how fortunate we are compared to those being helping. People who experience someone elses misfortune often come away with strong feelings of gratitude for the things and people in their own lives.

Most people are conditioned to react negatively or question why me when something bad happens. But, people who practice gratitude are more likely to find the positives in a negative situation. Just because its not something that was planned or it causes unhappiness doesnt mean theres nothing good to be taken from it.

So, as you can see, a little time savouring the good things in life can lead us all to a much more positive state of mind with very powerful and life-changing outcomes.

Whats your favourite way to practise gratitude?

Author: Lisa Currie, Ripple Kindness ProjectLisa is the founder of Ripple Kindness Project, a community program andschool curriculum that aims to improve social, emotional and mental health, and reduce bullying by teaching and inspiring kindness.The ongoing, whole school primary curriculum teaches children about their emotions and the impact their words and actions have on others. It provides opportunities for children to be part of kindness activities, allowing them to experience the feel-good emotions kindness produces.

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October 7th, 2017 at 2:48 pm

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