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Gratitude Adjustment

If you could improve your physical and psychological well-being, get a better night’s sleep, and improve your self-esteem with one simple attitude change, would you do it?

We may be talking magic bullet here. Sometimes we have more power to help ourselves than we realize. This exercise doesn’t involve pain–just a little focus and practice, and November seems an appropriate time to begin.

Gratitude. According to studies by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. and prominent gratitude researcher, gratitude reduces toxic emotions like resentment, envy, depression, frustration, and increases happiness and wellness.

“Through a recent movement called positive psychology, mental health professionals are taking a close look at how virtues such as gratitude can benefit our health. And they’re reaping some positive results,” (See www.webmd.com).

Health. Grateful people tend to have fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier in general. Because they appreciate life, they also tend to take better care of their health, a possible road to longer life.

Civility. Gratitude promotes prosocial behavior, reduces aggression, and increases empathy. Grateful people are less prone to revenge and retaliation, are more sensitive and sympathetic, even when others treat them less than kindly.

Friendship. Research reveals that just saying Thank you makes others view you positively and opens the door to new friendships. People feel that they and their contributions are appreciated. Who doesn’t like feeling appreciated?

Mental strength. A study published in “Behavior Research and Therapy” found lower rates of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) among Vietnam war veterans who routinely exhibited higher levels of gratitude.

Self-esteem. Where resentment is a major contributor to low self-esteem and unhappiness, gratitude heightens self-esteem by reducing social comparisons to others who may be wealthier or hold better jobs. Athletes with a grateful outlook were shown to perform better, due in part to high self-esteem.

Sleep. Taking 15 minutes each evening to write in a gratitude journal may cause you to sleep better and longer. Pondering the good events of the day increases satisfaction and feelings of comfort.

Eloise, a woman of advanced years, found herself bed-ridden in a care facility and was understandably bitter and unhappy. A visiting friend suggested that she try thinking about something to be grateful for.

Her response, again understandable, was, “What have I got to be grateful for? I’ve lost my home, my health, and I don’t want to be in this place.”

The friend calmly said, “Well, why don’t you start being grateful for the doorknob. Every time that door opens someone is coming in to care for you, to bring meals or fresh laundry, to spend time with you, or clean your room.”

Eventually, tired of feeling angry, Eloise took her friend’s suggestion to heart. Over time she found her stress level and anger diminishing, her sense of well-being improving, and she discovered something to appreciate in each day.

Gratitude can be a powerful tool even in the worst of times. We’ve seen it in the recent hurricane victims. It calls us to focus on what we have, no matter how little, and to silence complaint about whatever seems lacking. Many who try it find it worth adopting permanently.

Happy Thanks–giving!

Constance Watkins