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Where would you rate yourself on a 0 – 10 scale as a grateful person? Where would others rate you?
Does your level of gratitude make any difference? In your life? In the lives of others?
Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu faiths all prize gratitude as a virtue. The Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you." Your parents may have chided you to be more grateful when you sulked over a gift that wasn’t quite what you were hoping for.
What’s so great about gratitude? Why should you or anyone else care whether you are a grateful person?
What Gratitude Has to Offer
The collective experience of generations – reflected in the writings of philosophers, poets, lyricists, spiritual leaders, and many others – suggests that an attitude of gratitude helps us cope with bad times and gives us an appropriately humble perspective. Life will be better for those with a grateful attitude.
Scientists have researched the value of gratitude on a strictly empirical basis. Several studies suggest that dispositionally grateful people:
• have a more positive mood
• report greater life satisfaction
• are more empathic, forgiving, helpful, and supportive
• experience more and better quality sleep
• demonstrate greater optimism
• feel an increased sense of connectedness to others
• have a reduced risk for depression, anxiety, phobia, bulimia, and nicotine/alcohol/drug
Why Isn’t Everyone Filled With Gratitude?
American individualism and self-reliance fosters the notion that we have only ourselves to thank. The affluence and materialism in our society focuses our attention on comparisons with others and the promises of advertising. Last year’s model, as great as it was last year, is a disappointment this year. Our neighbor makes a new purchase and “raises the bar” for what we think we need. It’s a challenge to maintain an attitude of gratitude. Once in a while, when we are faced with tragedy in our own life or witness hardship in the lives of others, we may start counting our blessings.
How to Maximize your Attitude of Gratitude
Pauline Wallin, author of Taming Your Inner Brat, offers these tips on cultivating an appreciative attitude:
• Make a point of saying “Thank you” to someone at least twice a day.
• Keep a gratitude journal. Every night before going to bed, write down three
things that went well that day.
• Think of someone in your past who had a positive influence on you, but whom
you never thanked. Write that person a letter of thanks or visit and deliver the
letter in person.
• Ask yourself: If I had my life to live over again, what would I NOT do
differently? Celebrate the positive aspects of your past that have helped you
become who you are today.
Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Jesuit priest, makes these suggetions:
• Wake up to surprises. As long as nothing surprises us, we walk through life in
a daze. Ask yourself at least twice a day, “Isn’t this surprising?” Surprise may
provide a jolt – enough to wake us up and to stop taking everything for granted.
• Stop and notice the details of your surroundings. Look carefully. See them as
if it were the first time. Let your thoughts stretch to things that have happened
to you recently. What have been your greatest joys lately?
• Be aware of opportunities. As you go through your day, ask yourself, “What’s
my opportunity here?” You will find opportunity to enjoy sounds, smells,
tastes, texture, colors, deeper joy, friendliness, kindness, patience,
faithfulness, honesty, and so much more.
Increase the joy and pleasure in your life. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude!
© Glen Rediehs, Ph.D.
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