With proponents like Oprah leading the cause, itâ€™s no wonder that gratitude has become a hot topic in recent years. But the idea of gratitude greatly pre-dates Ms. Winfrey; Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus have been encouraging us to express gratefulness for centuries.
In the 21st century weâ€™re learning why the concept of gratitude receives such universal support â€“ it comes back to us in spades. Researchers are finding that the impact of gratitude on health and well-being is undeniable.
Michael McCullough, Ph.D and Robert Emmons, Ph.D, gratitude gurus from the, have conducted numerous studies to evaluate the effect of gratitude on happiness, stress, and even exercise. What they found was that people who engaged in self-guided gratitude exercises reported feeling better about their lives and more optimistic for the future.
Researchers are finding that this positivity brought on my gratitude extends to benefits in physical health as well. Emmons and McCullough found that participants in their gratitude study who were more grateful reported fewer health complaints and symptoms of physical illness and even got more sleep. They also exercised up to 1.5 hours per week more than those who did not complete the gratitude exercises.
Glen Affleck, Ph.D, a University of Connecticut psychologist, suggests that gratitude is good for the heart as well. He and his colleagues found that when cardiac patients reported greater feelings of gratitude, they took more responsibility for their heart heath and were less likely to experience subsequent heart attacks.
So, how do you cultivate gratitude in your life?
Start a gratitude journal â€“ Keeping a nightly journal in which you record the things for which you are thankful makes you more grateful throughout the day. Youâ€™ll find yourself looking for things to document. Or better yet, keep a list going on a small notebook you can carry with you or on your iPhone.
Write a gratitude letter â€“ Researchers have found that even the act of writing a letter of gratitude to someone for whom you are appreciative can boost your mood. Actually delivering it only boosts the health benefits.
Surround yourself with grateful people â€“ Ensure that the people with whom you choose to spend your time share your perspective on gratitude and optimism. We take on the moods â€“ good and bad â€“ of those around us.
Create a daily practice â€“ Make gratitude part of your routine. Stick post-it notes in places you frequent (like the bathroom) with messages of gratitude or commit to spending your morning commute to coming up with three things youâ€™re grateful for that day.
[box type=”note”]Gratitude is an attitude, one that has to practiced regularly to reap the full benefits. Get started today and you’ll be happier and healthier in a matter of weeks![/box]