Do you always try to reach for something new or bigger in the hopes that it will finally make you happy? Pursuing one pleasure after another to fill the void of happiness is like walking on a treadmill; we stay in the same position no matter how hard we try to move forward! It is essential that we learn to step off that treadmill to feel more satisfied with our lives.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is the emotion we feel when we notice the goodness in our lives, and we appreciate it. Some of us acknowledge goodness more often than others. For example, some feel grateful and happy every time the sun is shining, while others rarely notice it.
Gratitude helps us refocus on what we have instead of what we lack. For example, how do you feel when someone waves your car to a hard-to-find parking spot? When we acknowledge the kindness of that person, we dismiss from the mind that the destination is half a block away. Gratitude ultimately promotes the appreciation of positive life experiences. In the process, gratitude helps us increase our positive thoughts and positive feelings towards our current circumstances. So, it is not necessary for us to constantly stay on that treadmill in pursuit of happiness. We can extract the maximum possible happiness and satisfaction from our lives simply by being grateful — even for a small act of kindness.
Can gratitude really make us happier?
Many scientific studies have shown that people who feel grateful more often are happier. More surprisingly, gratitude even has a lasting beneficial effect.
In his study, Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, the founder of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, tested 411 people on the impact of expressing gratitude to someone. Each participant was asked to write about early memories. When their week's assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for their kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores, and the beneficial effects lasted for a month.
There is evidence that gratitude also helps improve physical health and build better relationships.
The world's leading expert on gratitude, Dr. Robert A. Emmons, has done a series of research focusing on the impact of keeping gratitude journals. Dr. Emmons and his colleagues have studied more than 1000 people, from ages eight to 80, and found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits. They feel happier and more optimistic, become more outgoing and compassionate, feel less lonely and isolated, experience more joy and pleasure, and feel more alive and awake. Additionally, they sleep better, feel more refreshed upon waking, exercise more, have lower blood pressure, feel fewer aches and pains, and possess stronger immune systems. Gratitude has far-reaching, positive effects on our overall well-being.
A study on couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing about their relationship. With better relationships, we feel happier.
How does gratitude make us happier?
While gratitude magnifies positive emotions, it also blocks toxic, negative emotions. This makes us happier and more positive with the aspects of our life.
Dr. Emmons explains, "Gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it. We notice the positives more, and that magnifies the pleasures we get from life."
His research has also shown that people who have a high level of gratitude have low levels of resentment and envy. This makes sense because when we are grateful, we cannot feel envious, says Dr. Emmons.
How can we cultivate gratitude?
Though gratitude is an emotion we feel, it also acts like a muscle we can tone up. When we express our thankfulness more often, we are more likely to see results and become better at it.
Here are four exercises we can do to cultivate gratitude.
1. Keep a gratitude journal.
List just five things which you are grateful for every week. As you write, be specific and relive the sensations you felt as you remember what each occurrence meant to you. Journaling consciously and intentionally focuses your attention on developing more grateful thinking, as well as on eliminating negative thoughts. It helps you to see the goodness in life as new and exciting. Once you start looking for positive things, you will be surprised at how much is going well in your life.
2. Count your blessings.
Think about what you are grateful for today. You do not have to write it down. Just process it in your mind regularly. Make it a habit and incorporate it into your daily routine, say when you unwind in the evening.
3. Write a thank-you note.
Write a gratitude letter to another person, expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person's impact on your life. Send it, deliver it, or read it in person, whichever way you feel the most comfortable with. Not only will you make yourself happier, but you will also build a stronger relationship with that person.
4. Meditate with gratitude.
If you meditate or practice mindfulness, try focusing on what nature has provided you and the things you are grateful for. It could be the shining sun, a gentle sea breeze, or a blooming flower.
Keep in mind that gratitude has two components. First, it is an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there is goodness in life. The reality is that life is not perfect. But when we look carefully, we can find some amount of goodness in our lives that we can be grateful for.
The second component of gratitude is a recognition of the source of that goodness. When we figure out where the goodness comes from and we recognize that the source lies at least partially outside ourselves, we become appreciative of others or mother nature who helped us to achieve the goodness in our lives.
Consider practicing gratitude with a calming and uplifting rose beverage. Simply adding a serving of ECOMAAT La Vie en Rose Drops to a glass of water and enjoying the heavenly smell of the roses can put a smile on your face!
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