With Thanksgiving upon us, we’re forced to look at a topic that often gets overlooked and ignored in our society: Practicing gratitude.
For most people the thanks that they give around the dinner table once a year is their only practice of gratitude. And while being consciously grateful once a year is better than not doing it at all, practicing gratitude on a regular basis has huge benefits to your physical, emotional and psychological health that make gratitude a worthy endeavor to practice all year long.
Robert Emmons, Ph.D., has literally written the book on gratitude and has been studying the effects that regular gratitude practices can bring into our lives. People who practice gratitude for even three weeks have lower stress levels, lower blood pressure, more positive emotions, they get better quality sleep, they sleep longer and wake up feeling more refreshed than those who don’t practice gratitude at all.
So, why aren’t we all gratitude junkies? Well, it turns out that there are psychological habits that we all have that keep us from being grateful. One such habit, Dr. Emmons calls the “Self Serving Bias” and it means that we don’t want to give others or outside forces credit for the good things that happen in our lives but, we want to blame others for the not-so-good things that happen to us. We’re also naturally wired to put more emphasis on negative circumstances and remember negative circumstances more than positive ones as a survival mechanism. So, don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t bursting with gratitude everyday.
Even though there are barriers to being a truly grateful person, there are fun ways to combat those barriers and become more grateful.
Create a Gratitude Routine
Dr. Emmons frequently has his study participants keep a gratitude journal. Why? He says that taking the time to sit down and focus your mind on the things that you’re grateful for on a daily basis allows you to savor the tiny victories in your life. Dr. Emmons make the point that our brains crave a continual stream of new and positive thoughts.
Go Out of Your Way to Say Thank You
One way to not only practice gratitude but to spread gratitude into the world is to simply say “Thank You” to people. This may sound like too small a gesture to make a difference, but you’d be surprised at how much of an impact this can have on your day. Positivity is contagious and simply receiving a happy Thank You can be the catalyst that turns someones day around. So spread cheer this Holiday season and say “Thank You”.
Look for the Positive
A big part of what Dr. Emmons stresses is to simply change our dominant thoughts from negative to positive. By practicing gratitude and looking for the positive aspects in your life, you’re rewiring your brain to notice more positive things on a long term basis. So, the next time you’re about to start complaining about something, take a second and try to find one positive aspect about that thing. Positivity grows quickly and you’ll find that when you start looking for one positive aspect, you won’t be able to stop the positive aspects from popping into your head.
Gratitude is a lifelong habit that we should all strive to do more. By starting small and being consistent, your habit of gratitude will take on a life of its own. How will you begin your gratitude journey? Let us know! We want to hear how practicing gratitude has had an impact on your life.
Sarah E. Holmes is a Philadelphia business attorney and strategist that helps start ups and established businesses looking to expand, protect their assets and increase their profits in an approachable, down-to-earth way.