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Dr. Robert Emmons, known as Father Gratitude and author of Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, has been studying gratitude for a decade and has authored several books on what’s being called positive psychology.  The research has uncovered some significant benefits to having an attitude of gratitude. Studies show that the practice of gratitude can increase happiness levels by 25% and overall health by, for example, increasing the quantity and quality of sleep. Beneficial outcomes can be achieved by such simple practices as praying, writing in a gratitude journal, placing a thankful phone call, making a mental gratitude list, or writing a gratitude letter to someone.

Gratitude is primarily studied by self-reporting, but, for you skeptics, there are increasingly promising results measuring hard scientific data such as cor­ti­sol and stress lev­els, heart rate vari­abil­ity, and brain acti­va­tion pat­terns. Some studies are showing how mind­ful­ness prac­tices like gratitude can actually rewire the frontal lobes.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but let’s talk about what gratitude is, exactly. It’s a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation; seeing the glass half full instead of half empty; viewing a day as partly sunny instead of partly cloudy.  Gratitude is a shift in perspective and a conscious choice.  In any situation, you can choose a feeling of lack or abundance, choose a state of complaint or gratitude.  Every day, in every circumstance, this choice is available to you.

At first, it may be difficult to see life from this angle and even feel forced or fake.  That’s OK.  With regular practice over time, being grateful becomes a habit and a default setting which shows up more than just at Thanksgiving. I know, for me, the experience of gratitude has drastically changed my life.

I began my practice at a time in my life when I had just tried to commit suicide resulting in a serious brain injury. I could barely walk with any coordination or talk understandably. Because of the suicide attempt and my mental condition, I had lost custody of my two sons.  Being appreciative DID feel fake.  However, the alternative, focusing on all that was wrong in my life, only made me feel worse by perpetuating the feelings of hopelessness and pain.  Even though, I had no idea what I was doing, it worked.

There really is no “right” or “wrong” way here.  “Right” is whatever is right for you.

I may have to get out the magnifying glass, at times, but I can always find something for which to be grateful these days.

image source:https://www.flickr.com/photos/michellemaclellan/

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12 Comments

  1. That’s one of my favorite songs, Debbie, and one of my favorite lines in a song! I’ve been known to crank this one up and play it over and over (and my patient husband doesn’t say a word 😉 ). You’re right that sometimes it feels forced, but the more you look for things the appreciate, the more you find and the more natural it feels.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      One of the joys of living by myself…I can crank up the music as loud as I want. Although, I do get some funny looks from the animals at times. Sometimes, even still, at first when processing something, it might feel forced, but, I find, it starts the process of moving through an issue and seeing a different perspective and finding gratitude. And, that is what it is all about for me.

  2. Hi Debbie,

    I really appreciate the scientific information you provide in addition to your own experience. It’s a great approach! Gratitude has made a huge difference in my life too. It’s good to have a reminder though cause it’s easy let it slide sometimes. This brain is having a visual migraine for the moment so I will keep it short. Thank you so much for your blog, Debbie. I’m so glad I’ve connected with you.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Thank you so much for the kind words and vote of confidence! The scientific information validates for me what I already know to be real through my own experience. I do not “need” it, but I do realize others might. It amazes me that I have experienced everything first hand and kind of stumbled onto it (I think a dear spirit has been guiding me BTW) on my own and, then later, I would find the scientific backing behind it. Pretty cool!

  3. Hi Debbie, great post and I totally agree with you on the key part that gratitude plays in life and whether you choose (another key) to be positive or negative. I use positive affirmations that begin with “I Am so happy and so grateful…”. And, yes this really does work and has helped to change to more positive habits of success.
    Thanks again, Stephen

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Stephen, I am so glad that you have discovered this tool and put it to work in your own life. Amazing, isn’t it? Nothing has to change, but your way of thinking. Then, in turn, our feelings change and follow the thoughts. Keep on putting this to good use!

  4. Having lived to this moment is plenty to feel a surge of success about. Waking up each morning should be enough to give a feeling of jubilation for being around to see another day and oh! the possibilities. Throughout life, things will happen. But how we feel inside at each moment is what we take with us throughout this life regardless of the outside circumstances. The world is actually a beautiful place. People are beautiful. Our society though is based on an economy (which is arbitrary) and the only way for it to work is to make us feel inadequate so we can buy stuff. But really we are magnificent. We are a product of the Universe and of Nature. We don’t look at ourselves in a positive way because we have bought into the economy’s ethos. Then we feel awful. We must nurture relationships and express our true selves. Like John Lennon said, “Imagine”.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Thanks for the positive words. You certainly sound like you have the “gratitude thing” going on in your life. It makes all the difference, doesn’t it? As Melody Beattie said: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

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