The Attitude of Gratitude…Thanksgiving 365 Days a Year

Are you looking for a path to elevate your physical, financial, relational, mental and emotional capabilities?  How about gaining a higher level of control over your environment, personal growth, purpose in life and self-acceptance?  And to live each day with more happiness and a lower level of stress?  The answer may surprise you.  It is the attitude of gratitude.

So, what is gratitude?  Dan Sullivan, Founder and President of The Strategic Coach, offers the following definition: 

“Gratitude is an internally generated capability that allows an individual to create and discover unlimited meaning and value in every situation and relationship in life.”

Simply put, gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present.  In addition, behavioral and psychological research shows the surprising life improvements that stem from your attitude of gratitude.  Giving thanks makes you more resilient, improves your health, reduces stress and strengthens relationships.

Author Angeles Arrien wrote, “Gratitude is a feeling that spontaneously emerges from within.  However, it is not simply an emotional response; it is also a choice you make.”

Arrien suggests four ways to express gratitude:

  1. Recognize the good in your life
  2. Accumulate and learn from the experiences of growth and change
  3. Exhibit kindness, compassion, and forgiveness in work and your personal life
  4. Safeguard your family, yourself, your business, your employees and your clients’ businesses

Research Shows that Gratitude Heightens Quality of Life. 

Life going upThe systematic study of gratitude within psychology did not begin until around the year 2000, possibly because psychology has traditionally been focused on understanding distress rather than positive emotions.

Two psychologists, Michael McCullough of Southern Methodist University in Dallas and Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis conducted an experiment on gratitude and its impact on well-being.  The study split hundreds of people into three differing groups and all participants were asked to keep diaries.  Group A kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day without being told to write about either good or bad things; Group B was told to record their unpleasant experiences; and Group C was instructed to make a daily list of those things for which they were grateful.

The study evidenced that daily gratitude exercises result in higher recorded levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy.  In addition, those in the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made greater progress toward achieving goals.  In addition, research shows that those who live with an attitude of gratitude tend to be more creative, bounce back more quickly from adversity, have stronger immune systems, and have stronger relationships than those who don’t practice gratitude.  Dr. Emmons points out that “To say that you are grateful is not to say that everything in your life is necessarily great.  It just means that you are aware of your blessings.”

An attitude of gratitude also serves to reinforce future prosocial behaviors in benefactors.  For example, one experiment found that customers of a jewelry store who were called and thanked showed a subsequent 70% increase in purchases.  In comparison, customers who were called and thanked and told about a pending sale showed only a 30% increase in purchases, and customers who were not called at all did not show any increase.  In another study, regular patrons of a restaurant gave bigger tips when servers wrote thank you on their checks.

Your Gratitude Journal

Starting a gratitude journal is quite simple – every day, answer the question, “What am I grateful for today?”  You may find it more meaningful if you apply the following six steps:

  1. Be consciously grateful – don’t just go through the motions of responding.
  2. Don’t give yourself a minimum or maximum number of things to write per day. Be flexible and enjoy feeling the gratitude.
  3. Set a time each day to write in your journal. However, if you have a profound experience or joyful encounter, go ahead and write it down immediately.
  4. Feel free to elaborate. When you review your journal, your stories will trigger many happy memories.
  5. Don’t rush – be creative and savor every word as you relive the experience.
  6. Give your journal a fair chance. It takes an average of 21 days to form a new habit.

Try committing to an Attitude of Gratitude for the next three weeks and see how you feel.  After all, what do you have to lose?