The Power of Gratitude
By Suzanne Smith, MSN, NP, CMT-P
What are you grateful for? Reflect on one thing that you are grateful for right now in this moment. How does gratitude make you feel?
“Gratitude is a celebration of the good things in life….”
Gratitude is the feeling of appreciation that arises from within in response to something that has value and meaning to us. Gratitude is a celebration of the good things in life and can bring about feelings of warmth, openness, and connection. It is thought to be important in our survival and evolution as we depend on the help of others and offer help in return.
The practice of gratitude has been shown to have benefits on physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Practicing gratitude has been associated with enhanced sleep, immunity, and resilience. Gratitude promotes optimism and life satisfaction among many other health benefits. Being grateful doesn’t mean we turn away from the difficulties of life; it actually helps us keep things in perspective. There is evidence that gratitude fosters purpose and meaning in life. Feelings of gratitude nurture our individual mental health but also strengthen our bonds with others.
“…gratitude reminds us that we live in an interdependent world”.
Many things of value in our life come from outside of ourselves and gratitude reminds us that we live in an interdependent world. When we become aware and celebrate the benefits we receive, we awaken the desire to express this feeling. When we express our gratitude to others, we increase the quality of those relationships. It has been shown that practicing gratitude leads to more positive perceptions of our friends, families and partners resulting in a sense of deeper connection.
The benefits of gratitude can be sustained with a regular practice. Research shows that actively reflecting, writing, and appraising moments of gratitude as little as two times a week promoted feelings of gratitude which improved peoples’ perceived life satisfaction. Another study showed that simply writing daily for 5 minutes about what we are grateful for enhanced long-term happiness. Below are some ways to practice gratitude and receive the benefits it has to offer:
Start by simply noticing.
What supports you in your life? Notice the things you take for granted like running water, electricity, a comfortable bed, or access to a variety of food. When we open our awareness to what we have, there are countless things to be grateful for.
Keep a gratitude journal.
Set aside a few moments a day to reflect on one to three things you appreciate and write about them. Open to feeling the gratitude.
Gratitude in community.
If you live in community- start a gratitude jar. Place a large jar with a lid in a common area with a notepad and a pen. Invite members of your household to contribute. Arrange a gratitude gathering and read them aloud and celebrate together. What ways can you practice gratitude in community?
Gratitude in action.
Take the time to express your gratitude to one person each day. When we express our gratitude and put the feeling into action, it not only makes us feel good, but it impacts the receiver of our gratitude in a positive way. This can be as simple as sending someone a brief text or email expressing your appreciation or writing a gratitude letter with more depth of expression. We can also show our gratitude through other kind acts of giving. When we express our gratitude to others it can inspire that person and cause a ripple effect. How can you express your gratitude today?
I hope this inspires you to tap into the powerful resource of gratitude by taking a few moments each day to reflect on celebrating the things that make your life meaningful. Make gratitude practice fun and creative by coming up with different ways to practice.
Suzanne Smith, MSN, NP, CMT-P is nurse practitioner at UCLA where she heads the Integrative Digestive Health and Wellness Program, teaching mind-body based skills and promoting healthy living for gastrointestinal conditions. She is a regular contributor to the MGC Blog.