"If there was one character trait that I think goes at the top of the list for everyone to grow in, myself included, it would be ‘gratitude’. As we go through the busyness of life, face the many challenges and hurdles we have to, deal with difficult people and situations, one of the first things that we can forget to have is gratitude. It’s easy to look at every situation and see the ‘glass half empty’ and to complain rather than to see the glass half full.
Research has shown the many benefits of gratitude and these are just a few:
- Grateful people have 10% fewer stress related illnesses and are more physically fit
- Grateful people have blood pressure that is lower by 12%
- Grateful teenagers are less likely to start smoking
- Grateful youths are more likely to get higher grades
- Grateful people have better relationships with others and are more well liked
- Happy people roughly have 7% higher income
- Overall happiness can add up to 7 years to your life
(data from templeton.org)
And I think most people would agree that gratitude is important but the challenge isn’t knowing that fact, it’s putting it into practice.
There’s a saying that goes ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ and being grateful means seeing the silver lining in every situation. It’s really about perspective and choosing to see the good over seeing the bad. So when it’s pouring outside and you are out without an umbrella, it’s choosing to be grateful that you have proper shoes on and not complaining that you don’t have an umbrella. When your best friend moves to a different country, it’s choosing to be thankful for the friendship and the means to communicate with modern technology and not seeing it as losing a friend. Or when your toddler is throwing a fit and screaming and crying, it’s choosing to be grateful that you have an opportunity to shape and teach a life, rather than complaining that your child is naughty and a burden. It’s all about perspective.
And the great thing about gratitude, as with any other character trait, is that is can grow. Just like a muscle, gratitude can grow as you exercise it and use it more. So studies have found that these methods to be effective in helping us grow in gratitude and they are suitable for adults and children alike:
1) Every morning, think of 3 things/people you are grateful for
It doesn’t have to be big things – it could just be taking the time to be thankful for having air to breathe and a home to wake up in. Starting the day with gratitude, sets us up for a better day.
2) Keep a gratitude journal
People say that it takes 8 weeks to make or break a habit and keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to give thanks daily and to grow the habit of being grateful. Take time at the end of each day to write down a couple things that you are grateful for.
3) Express the gratitude
Studies have shown that if we have gratitude, our happiness levels rise by a couple percent. But if we also express that gratitude, happiness levels can go up double fold. So make the effort to express the gratitude. Whether it’s to God through prayer, writing a thank you note to a friend, or just simply saying “thank you” to someone who has helped you, it will make you and the other person happier – and hopefully start a chain of gratitude.
4) Find the silver lining
Practice finding the silver lining to every situation. I have a student who once shared with me that she has a ‘silver linings book’ and in it, she will write down all the things that she is upset about. After that, she will think about the silver lining in each situation and write that down too. Soon, she realized that she could more easily see the good in every situation, causing her to be more grateful.
""Count your blessings and you will have an attitude of gratitude."" ~Sir John Templeton "
Founder & Principal
JEMS Learning House