Why Gratitude is the Best (and Only) Option
Point to Ponder: Who or what are you grateful for?
This summer, during our Banff, Canada iGnite Escape, each evening we found ourselves relaxing in the outdoor hot tub that overlooked the mountains while playing a get-to-know-you card game. One card with a random question would be chosen and each of us would have an opportunity to answer it. The questions were innocent, fun, thought-provoking and a great way to learn more about one another. A few examples of the questions were: “if you got a tattoo, what would you get and why?; if you could choose to be a different ethnicity, what would it be and why; and when feeling down or depressed, what do you do to boost your spirit? My answers were I’d get a cross tattoo, I’d be Brazilian, and when I feel down, I write gratitude notes.
Keeping a gratitude journal or writing gratitude notes are two of the greatest antidotes to the blues. Personally, they pull me outside of myself and allow me to shift my focus to a person or persons who I am thankful for as well as for the blessings in my life. And, while life stressors are intense and heavy, what we focus on is what shows up, so to me, focusing on who and what we are thankful for is the only viable option. Or, if you need more proof to the power of gratitude, check out the scientifically proven benefits of gratitude from a 2015 article from Psychology Today.
1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or send a thank-you note to that colleague who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.
2. Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.
3. Gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kindly, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.
5. Grateful people sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.
6. Gratitude improves self-esteem. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athletes’ self-esteem, an essential component to optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs—a major factor in reduced self-esteem—grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
7. Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for —even during the worst times—fosters resilience.
iGnite believes in gratitude- living in and with it as well as expressing it. As a result, over the past four years and during the week before Thanksgiving, in all of our classes we have provided gratitude note cards for our members to write to anyone they want. As a result of our feel-good gratitude initiative, iGnite has mailed over 1200 gratitude notes that are delivered during the week of Thanksgiving, and after this week, we hope to make that number at least 1500.
Throughout this week, you will be given the opportunity to write a gratitude note or notes to anyone you’d like. All you need to do is have their addresses and we will make sure they have postage and are mailed by next Monday and received the week of Thanksgiving. If you can’t make it to class, I invite you to join our important and impactful gratitude initiative. Not only will your effort and words lift you up, but they will for sure lift up the receiver, and therefore the butterfly effect, the concept that small causes can have large effects, begins.
Use this week, the week before Thanksgiving, to write gratitude
notes to those who you are grateful for.