An Attitude of Gratitude



←Guess Who’s♥ been blogging from the road again? 🙂

Monday, November 24, 2008

Finally, some research reports coming in on the power of Saying Thank You. This is from today’s pages of USA Today.

Gratitude is Good for Your Health

Stepping up the gratitude
Giving thanks year-round can make you healthier

Your Health By Kim Painter

Thursday, in between the cheese ball appetizers and the pumpkin pie desserts, most of us will indulge in something proven to have powerful health benefits.

No, it’s not that extra serving of stuffing. It’s the expression of gratitude — the simple act of thanking God, thanking others or just counting your blessings. Saying thanks, it turns out, isn’t just pious or polite. It’s good for you.

But there’s a catch: You have to do it even when the calendar does not say “Thanksgiving.”

“It doesn’t really work if you do it only once a year,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California-Riverside.

Practicing gratitude is like exercising, says Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis: Use it, and you won’t lose it, even when times are tough, as they are for many folks right now.

Lyubomirsky and Emmons are among researchers who have studied the power of gratitude and learned, for example, that:

  • People with high blood pressure not only lower their blood pressure, but they feel less hostile and are more likely to quit smoking and lose weight when they practice gratitude. This was demonstrated by calling a research hotline once a week to report on the things that make them grateful.
  • People who care for relatives with Alzheimer’s disease feel less stress and depression when they keep daily gratitude journals, listing the positive things in their lives.
  • Those who maintain a thankful attitude through life appear to have lower risks of several disorders, including depression, phobias, bulimia and alcoholism.
  • Most people can lift their mood simply by writing a letter of thanks to someone. Hand-deliver the letter, and the boost in happiness can last weeks or months.

Practicing gratitude in these systematic ways changes people by changing brains that “are wired for negativity, for noticing gaps and omissions,” Emmons says. “When you express a feeling, you amplify it. When you express anger, you get angrier; when you express gratitude, you become more grateful.”

And grateful people, he says, don’t focus so much on pain and problems. They also are quicker to realize they have friends, families and communities to assist them in times of need. They see how they can help others in distress as well, he says.

After 9/11, many people reported increased feelings of gratitude, says Chris Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

It’s too soon for studies on the influence of the nation’s financial meltdown, but Peterson says he hears a lot of people counting their blessing these days. “There are people who say ‘It could be worse, and I’m glad I have my health.’ “

Gratitude won’t get those people new jobs or replenish their retirement accounts, but it could give them the energy to tackle their challenges, Peterson says:

“It can only help.” (Page 6D)

I was actually thinking last night that for all the complaining I may do, I am really grateful for most of the things in my life. While I wish I could say I practice an awareness of gratitude in my everyday life, the truth is that I fall very short from that, hoping at best for reminders. I got one yesterday.

Last night, my eldest called. A boy she’s known since high school and who is the younger son of our wonderful dentist, apparently collapsed as he was leaving the gym a week ago. They discovered he had a heart condition, one that he was unaware of that was the cause of the collapse. In the 6 minutes it took between his collapse and emergency workers getting to him, his brain went without oxygen. He has been in a medical coma since that time, unresponsive, while the doctors continue to fight to relieve the swelling in his brain.

Unresponsive. 20 years old. No warning signs, no way to have known. A time-dividing moment in which his life and the lives of his family and friends will never be the same. Life before the collapse and life after.

While I feel the weight of sadness for what his mom (our dentist) and dad and older brother must be going through, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for my family and the relative health we all enjoy. The lives that we have and the opportunities and friends we’ve been blessed with.

Today I hugged my kids a little longer and more often. I called my eldest just to tell her how much I love her. I gave my husband an extra hug and told him how much I appreciate everything he does for his family and for loving me, despite my foibles. I called my brother and my sister, like I’ve been meaning to for weeks. I called my parents and told them I love them and can’t wait to see them this week. Several of my friends who don’t hear from me daily got a “was just thinking aboutcha – how’ve you been?” phone call today and we caught up. I took the time to stop and tell one of the women in my life how much knowing them has influenced my life and how lucky I am to call them friend. I actuated a plan to get together with some friends who have been traveling recently, asking them to come over this Saturday to share their adventures with me and other friends.

So hopefully, on this Thanksgiving Thursday, it will be just another day in the sense that I’ll be able to say “Thank you” for everything and everyone, everywhere.

Thank YOU too, reader of this blog, for being a part of my world from wherever this may find you. 🙂




2 Responses

  1. how precious things are. how quickly they can change. gratitude daily is so important. worth thinking about before going off an a tangent when things don’t go our way…

  2. Thanks for this one LeLe. It reminds me of how it can all change in a split second. I will hug my babies and my husband a bit longer this morning because of you.
    Thank you for being one of those women in my life that keeps me grounded and is always…I mean ALWAYS there for me. You have given me another special gift this morning, and I am forever grateful:)
    Luv ya,

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