Attitude of Gratitude
In my office I have a sign that says “An Attitude of Gratitude, brings blessings.” In our busy lives it’s easy to get caught up in work, family, social media, and attending events. All these activities can lead to feeling stressed and overwhelmed. During the month of November, we celebrate Thanksgiving and gratitude. I hope each of us can take a step back and focus on the positive, pleasant parts of life.
Several years ago, I had a client who visited her father on Thanksgiving. They had a wonderful day together having a home-cooked meal, sharing stories, and enjoying being together. That night her father had a heart attack and passed away. My client had mixed feelings about feelings of gratitude and giving thanks. On the one hand, she and her father had a wonderful day together. On the other hand, she was grief stricken and angry about the loss of her father. The holiday ended up being very bitter-sweet.
Over time, she came to terms with the irony of this event. She worked to “let go” of her anger and accept what happened. Eventually she was able to focus her attention on feelings of appreciation. She concluded that bitterness made her grief worse and focusing on positive thoughts and memories made her feel better.
An article titled 14 Health Benefits of Practicing Gratitude According to Science, by Kori Miller, describes many benefits to focusing on gratitude. One of the most important benefits is the release of dopamine in the brain. The dopamine creates a connection between the behavior and feeling good. The more a person focuses on gratitude, the more dopamine is released.
The article provides a list of ways each person can benefit:
- Increased happiness and positive mood
- More life satisfaction
- Less materialistic
- Less burnout
- Improved physical health
- More energy
- Lower levels of inflammation
- More resiliency
- Encourages the development of positive qualities such as patience, humility, and wisdom
Developing An Attitude Of Gratitude
In the article, Gratitude and Wellbeing; The Benefits of Appreciation, by Sansone & Sansone write about psychological strategies that may enhance feelings of gratitude. They suggest that the following interventions are easy and reasonably effective.
- Journaling about things for which you are grateful
- Thinking about someone for whom you are grateful
- Writing a letter to someone for whom you are grateful
- Meditating on gratitude
- Count Your Blessings – at the end of the week, write down three things for which you were grateful
- Practicing saying “thank you” in a sincere way
- Writing thank you notes
- If religious, praying about your gratitude
Most of us have struggles in life; however, we have a choice regarding where to focus our attention. We can concentrate on positive or negative thoughts and experiences. There are definite health benefits to focusing on gratitude. The strategies and skills to develop gratitude are relatively simple and effective.
Wishing you and your family all the best this holiday season,
Steven J. Chen, Ph.D.