The Power of Gratitude

What is Gratitude?

Thanksgiving has quickly passed us by but the idea of giving thanks still lingers throughout most of the holiday season. Gratitude, according to Google, is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”. Other words we could use as synonyms are appreciation, thankfulness, acknowledgment, respect, or recognition. All of these words require action and choice; we have to choose to set aside time or resources to show we are aware of the good things that we have in our lives. Gratitude causes us to intentionally slow down our minds, reflect, and recognize that we have positive things in our lives even amongst all the craziness that life throws at us. 

Why Choose Gratitude?

As we go about our packed and busy lives it can seem overwhelming to add another thing to the “To-Do” list. However, research shows that this practice could help us deal with the mess of life. In 2021, Harvard Health Publishing wrote an article where they stated that positive psychology research shows “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”  Joshua Brown, Ph.D. and Joel Wong Ph.D wrote an article for The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley where they had four major takeaways about gratitude: “Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions, Gratitude helps even when you don’t share it (with others), Gratitude’s benefits take time (to show), and Gratitude has lasting (positive) effects on the brain.” 

When you stop to notice the good in life it allows you to experience the positive emotions and memories more. Which in turn can help when things get hard as you can more easily remind yourself that things can improve. One of the most important things we can have in life as we face adversity is hope, and gratitude can be a part of building that expectation that things can change for the better. When we stop and ponder the ways we are thankful for a friend and then share it with them it can improve that relationship. When we stop and ponder all the things that bring us joy, we can improve our mood or lower stress which improves our physical health. When we stop and list all the ways God has provided us, we can feel loved and bring joy into our walk of faith. There are so many ways to stop and be intentionally grateful for the positive things in our life.

How to Cultivate Gratitude:

The first step in practicing anything new is setting aside time to do so. Try not to jump in quickly, and take it one step at a time. This is a skill you want to build over time, so start by simply picking a day to start and that morning write down three things you are thankful for. Then slowly build and add in more days of the week to practice gratitude as the weeks go by. An example could be in week one you choose Monday mornings, then in week two, you choose Monday and Wednesday mornings, and so on. Once you add in more days you can change up the ways you practice gratitude, maybe instead of a list, you write a letter to someone you are thankful for or go for a thankfulness walk. Gratitude can be a simple skill that can fit into your life without much effort but like all skills, it takes practice to build it up but the effort is worth the positive outcomes for your life.

written by Catherine Johnson, PLPC

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