Sounds like basic common sense, right?  But I wonder if everyone really comprehends the many benefits of an “attitude of gratitude.”  In recent years, studies have been conducted in psychology departments of universities across the U.S. (from UC-Davis to U-Penn, and several in-between) regarding the long-terms effects of gratitude.  GratitudeA quick internet search uncovers dozens of articles from various sources (such as the New York Times and Psychology Today), all extolling the benefits of gratitude.  I’ve read several and think they’re worth summarizing for everyone’s benefit.

In general, the long-term benefits of a grateful attitude include:

  • Improved sleep
  • Improved health/immunity (reported fewer physical ailment complaints)
  • Improved behavior toward others/romantic partners
  • Increased optimism/joy
  • Decreased aggression/anxiety/depression

But what if you aren’t a grateful person by nature?  The short answer is to fake it.  Yes, apparently you can force the gratitude and, eventually, it will take root in even the most ardent cynics or dysfunctional relationships.  So, how do you fake it?  Employ these simple acts as regularly as possible:

  • Say thank-you for any small gesture undertaken by another
  • Do small acts of kindness for others (hold a door, pay a compliment)
  • Express admiration for others’ accomplishments (no matter how small)
  • Listen carefully to others/give your undivided attention
  • Don’t counterattack (let go of a desire to punish)
  • Keep a gratitude journal

That last one is particularly interesting.  Studies prove keeping a weekly journal of gratitude (which can be a brief entry of a couple of things you were grateful about that week) will escalate your overall sense of happiness and well-being within two months.  That’s a pretty big payoff for writing eight short paragraphs!

Better yet, pay someone a “gratitude visit” and immediately boost your spirit for up to a month.  A gratitude visit is delivered by writing a letter to someone to whom you are grateful for any reason.  It works best if you deliver the letter in person and read it aloud, but that isn’t required.

As a parent, I think I might modify the weekly journal idea and hold weekly gratitude discussions at the dinner table.  If I can instill the gift of gratitude in my kids, then I’ll have done something worthwhile as a parent (and God knows I can use the little wins wherever I can find them!).

For myself, I’m going to start right here and now by expressing my gratitude to my friends, family, and readers who continually lend me their support and encouragement as I pursue my writing adventure.  I’m sure sometimes you are bored talking to me about it, but you let me ramble anyway, and for that I am grateful!

What are you grateful for?  Share with us!