According to the English Oxford dictionary, gratitude is “the quality of being thankful…readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Gratitude is appreciating what you have and recognizing the simple pleasures of life…things we often take for granted.
Gratitude is a powerful force that can make us happier and healthier. Many studies, including those by Psychologists R.A. Emmons and M. E. McCullough, found that people who focus on and write down what they are grateful for every day showed evidence of greater emotional and physical well-being at the end of the study than those who focused on difficulties. Research shows that people who focus on gratitude experience greater joy, get sick less often, are more creative, have less anxiety, and have stronger social relationships. So how can you develop and nurture gratitude in your life? Here are some suggestions.
Keep a gratitude journal—each day before you go to sleep, before you get out of bed, or anytime during the day that works best for you, write down three things that you are grateful for. It can be the laughter of a child, the new job you just got, the smell of the spring flowers. What are those things that brought a smile to your face and joy to your heart?
If you don’t like to write, replace the gratitude journal with a daily reflection or gratitude meditation.
Write a thank you letter to someone who has had a positive influence on your life. According to Emmons this is a powerful way to cultivate gratitude. Some experts recommend that you read the letter to the person.
If you do not have time to write or personally thank a person, thank them mentally.
Change your perception of a difficult situation. Choose to find something positive about the situation. This can be difficult; however, this will help you to move from a negative emotion to one of gratitude.
Help others who are less fortunate. Not only does this demonstrate true compassion but it will make you more appreciative of what you have.
Paula O’Neill, MS, R.N.-BC, is the clinical program manager of Hackensack Meridian Health’s Integrative Health & Medicine at Raritan Bay Medical Center. Since 2004, Raritan Bay’s credentialed practitioners have provided integrative therapies to enhance patients’ health and well-being with complementary medicine supporting the mind-body-spirit connection. Scheduled classes and private sessions are provided for a fee. For more information, call 732-324-5257.
With locations in Perth Amboy and Old Bridge, New Jersey, Raritan Bay Medical Center delivers critical world-class healthcare services care to Monmouth and Middlesex County residents. As providers of first-class healthcare in the areas of stroke, cardiology, cancer, physical rehabilitation, pulmonary rehabilitation, pediatric medicine, Raritan Bay Medical Center continues to stay on the forefront of medicine.
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