“Importance of An Attitude of Gratitude”
by Anita DiGregory
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” ~William Arthur Ward
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, the spirit of gratitude is typically celebrated in the month of November. However, increasing scientific studies are verifying the importance of fostering and demonstrating an attitude of gratitude year-round. Science continues to confirm the myriad of benefits from gratitude, including, but not limited to: improved health, happier disposition, career boosts, better sleep, and longer life, as well as increased energy, spirituality, relaxation, self-esteem, and positive feelings, and decreased anxiety, depression, self-centeredness, and envy. Remarkably, scientists studying gratitude have witnessed the correlation between thankfulness and better marriages, stronger friendships, deeper relationships, better decision-making, productivity, and overall management. With so many positive effects, gratitude is a simple, yet powerful, characteristic we can strive to practice, emulate, and model, not only for ourselves but also for the benefit of our families, children, and communities.
“It has been said that life has treated me harshly; and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human experience have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me.” ~Helen Keller
Of course, life isn’t always easy, especially in today’s climate. In fact, in today’s world, an attitude of gratitude can almost seem counterintuitive or even countercultural; however, here lies the powerful paradox. In a time when there is so much anger, discontent, judgement, and pain, this humble, seemingly inconsequential virtue becomes a powerhouse of healing.
In his article “3 Reasons You Should Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude,” Adam Toren states, “Adopting a gratitude practice takes you out of a problem and towards a solution. It removes you from complaining mode and into a best-outcomes mindset. That’s a skill you need in your life and in your business decision-making. Whole companies and industries have been created from seeing solutions where others only saw obstacles.”
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Focusing on gratitude is a life skill that benefits not just the person practicing the virtue but also that individual’s community. The proven benefits are so numerous that companies are providing gratitude workshops to their employees.
“I am happy because I’m grateful. I choose to be grateful. That gratitude allows me to be happy. ~Will Arnett
Gratitude is contagious. People who practice thankfulness tend to be positive individuals. As a result, others want to be around them. Those who demonstrate gratitude tend to create an encouraging ripple effect, which can be felt by those around them. This is even more evident within families and among children.
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” ~A.A. Milne
Fostering gratitude and instilling this virtue in our children is beneficial to all. Practicing thankfulness helps children develop a positive outlook. Teaching our kids to reflect on the day’s blessings helps them to appreciate more and to stop taking life’s gifts for granted. Practicing gratitude can also foster increased compassion and altruism. Teaching the art of gratitude can be quite simple and rewarding.
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.” ~Maya Angelou
Model thankfulness. Children are always watching. By mindfully exhibiting thankful behaviors day-to-day, we can teach our children the virtue of gratitude. Looking someone in the eye, smiling, and saying “thank you” are all ways to exemplify gratitude. Allowing our children to observe us leaving a positive review, completing a complimentary comment card, or even informing a local business manager of their employee’s helpful service empowers our kids to become grateful as well.
Count your blessings. Take some time, perhaps in the evening, to reflect on the day. Set aside in your mind those blessings, small and large, from the last 24 hours. Help your children reflect on their day and center on three things for which they are thankful. Teaching our children how to take time each day to do this helps them to not only focus on the positives, but to also celebrate them.
Create a journal of blessings. Journaling can help in the articulation of feelings. It also reinforces memories, emotions, and feelings of thankfulness. A gratitude journal does not require a huge time commitment. Studies have shown positive results from merely five minutes a day of journaling. Journals can be handwritten or typed. Even young children can participate by illustrating in a sketchpad their thoughts on the day’s blessings.
Form a habit. Practice makes perfect, so practice the attitude of gratitude. By making thankfulness a daily practice, it becomes an automatic behavior and part of who we are.
Have share time. Gratitude is contagious. When parents model gratitude, children will be positively influenced, learn how to be grateful, and mimic that behavior. By setting a regular time each day, such as at dinner or before bed, for each family member to share their blessings, parents can help foster the spirit of gratitude, its importance, and its positive effects.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~John F. Kennedy