Access the Surprising Gifts of Gratitude
Each of us has more power than we realize to cultivate a life of abundance and appreciation. One way to do so: positively focused thinking in the form of thankfulness. Research suggests that establishing a daily practice of gratitude can strengthen your immune system, lower your blood pressure, support positive emotions like optimism and joy, and help you sleep better and exercise more.
The Power of Gratitude
“Gratitude, I believe, has the power to do three things—to heal, to energize and to change lives,” says Robert A. Emmons, PhD. The world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, Emmons is both a researcher and author of the book Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.
Being grateful doesn’t mean ignoring your suffering or pretending that there are no difficulties in life. In fact, says Emmons, it’s just the opposite: acknowledging and
remembering our difficulties helps build what he calls our “psychological immune system,” so we can appreciate what we have and fully celebrate the present.
Gratitude can also block toxic emotions that reduce well-being. “You can’t feel envy, resentment and regret while simultaneously experiencing gratitude,” Emmons says. “They’re incompatible feelings.”
Daily Gratitude Practices for a Life of Joy and Calm
Ready to make gratitude not just another good idea but a habit? Here are three practices that can deepen your sense of gratitude and support a life that is less stressful and more thankful.
1. Share Your Intent
Committing to thankfulness isn’t a solitary journey—it’s all about sharing. So enlist a group of friends, and offer one another words of kindness and encouragement as you shift toward habits of gratitude. When someone’s kindness makes you feel grateful, tell them—even if they’re a stranger and you feel a little embarrassed. Share moments of gratitude with friends on social media. And make use of virtual communities like the Global Appreciation Project and Happify to support your commitment.
2. Keep a Gratitude Journal
As you move through your day, learning to appreciate the small kindnesses and little gestures in life can help shift your outlook in fundamental ways. Maybe it’s the way another driver made space for you as you merged on the highway, an extra friendly greeting from the barista at your local coffee shop, or considering positive aspects of co-workers. Whatever it is, write it down—and then take time at the end of the day to replay these moments and remember your appreciation.
3. Take a Gratitude Walk
Whether you’re deep in the wilderness or strolling down a city street, take time to appreciate everything going on around you. Bird songs, the breeze on your face, the smell of food cooking—all these are opportunities to sense, savor and appreciate your surroundings. Simply by changing where you place your attention, you can begin to experience the world as a richer, more supportive place than you ever imagined. And that’s good for everyone.