Embrace an attitude of Gratitude (Gratitude = Joy = More Gratitude).
Perhaps you’ve heard the famous Aesop’s tale, “Androcles and the Lion.” Androcles was a man who after escaping enslavement, stumbles upon a lion in the forest. With a thorn stuck in his paw, Androcles discovers the lion to be in great pain, so he removes it for him. Later, both he and the Lion are captured and Androcles is sentenced to be thrown into the lion’s den. Even though the lion was ravenous, he merely licked his friend’s hand in greeting. The emperor was so astonished by the action, he set them both free. Not only is gratitude high on the emotional scale, it seems it has the power to launch miracles
According to Zig Ziglar, gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. It’s simply impossible to have a negative thought while in gratitude. When you commit to appreciation, your life becomes richer and more satisfying. We can focus on the benefits of receiving gratitude from others, and/or we can focus on the significance of cultivating gratitude ourselves. Gratitude has the ability to increase our joy by pushing away those negative thoughts that can derail us.
Researchers have found that gratitude actually changes the neural structures of the brain, providing positive feelings of happiness and contentment. Oprah may have said it best when she said, “Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never ever have enough.”
George Mason University’s Center for Advancement of Well-Being looked at joy over a period of time and found that gratitude predicted increased future joy. Somewhat surprisingly, joy also predicted increases in gratitude over time, suggesting an intriguing upward spiral between gratitude and joy. In other words, it looks like gratitude increases joy, but in turn joy also increases gratitude; and this “cycle of goodness” might be important to our happiness. Joy also predicted increases in happiness over time, supporting the idea that joy is important to subjective well-being.
According to Positive Psychology, the benefits of gratitude are endless. They encompass a 3-legged stool, so to speak. The psychological leg of gratitude includes positive emotions and thought, the physical leg provides a stronger immune system, better sleep, less pain, and optimum blood pressure. The Social leg of benefits include stronger interpersonal relationships, better communication, and increased likeability.
Gratitude can be easily practiced and can take on many forms including:
- A Written note to another
- A Vocal Expression to another
- A Prayer of thanksgiving
- An Expression to self (thoughts & written word (journaling)) Those that keep a gratitude journal, experience deeper, more meaningful lives. Can you set time aside each day?
One of the best times to practice gratitude is as soon as you wake from sleep. True love might just be the first thought you have in the morning, and the last thought you have before bed. In the first few minutes of the day, for example, the mind is very receptive to influence, with the least amount of resistance. So before you jump out of bed, consider a gratitude rant, either silent or aloud. Simply be mindful of the wonderful things and people in your life and savor the sweetness of as many things as you can muster. In doing so, you can yearn to experience the positive feelings that make you smile and expand the heart. Just a few minutes of thankful thinking can improve your mood for the entire day.
Other ways to embrace an attitude of gratitude include:
- Showing more enthusiasm when communicating
- Noticing the beauty in nature
- Smiling often
- Volunteering your time/skills
- Leave someone a larger tip than usual
- Making a gratitude collage of pictures
And just as we can be thankful for the ease of life, we can also be thankful for adversity, whether it is self-induced or dropped in our lap. Adversity can enlarge our world view and pull us into unknown territory. It’s much more difficult to learn, grow, and expand when we stay enchanted within our comfort zone. Challenges provide enormous opportunity for resilience, improved self-esteem, and fortitude. We don’t just go through the obstacles; we grow through them.
Although life can surely throw us a curve ball when we least expect it, shifting to a spirit of gratitude aligns us with the positive energy needed to bear any burden and persevere through any storm. Happiness and gratitude are closely linked. No matter where you might be on the emotional scale, gratitude will move you upwards towards joy and happiness. Perhaps it’s not happiness that brings us gratitude, but rather, gratitude that brings us happiness.