Our Readers' Opinions
February 9, 2016
Is gratitude important?

Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing the smallest pleasures of life, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It is a principle which means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given. Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present.{{more}} In addition, behavioural and psychological research has shown the surprising life improvements that can stem from the practice of gratitude. Giving thanks makes people happier and more resilient; it strengthens relationships; it improves health; and it reduces stress.

Research shows gratitude heightens quality of life

“Two psychologists, Michael Mc Collough of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis, wrote an article about an experiment they conducted on gratitude and its impact on well-being. The study split several hundred people into three different groups and all of the participants were asked to keep daily diaries. The first group kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day, without being told specifically to write about either good or bad things; the second group was told to record their unpleasant experiences; and the last group was instructed to make a daily list of things for which they were grateful. The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. In addition, those in the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly, and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.”

Benefits of gratitude

Results of numerous studies on the practices of gratitude consistently report a range of benefits in various aspects:

o Psychological benefits include feelings of alertness and wakefulness; higher levels of joy, pleasure, optimism and other positive emotions.

o Physical benefits include improved immune system and blood pressure; decreased occurrences of aches and pains; more inclined to exercise and healthy living; and better sleeping patterns.

o Social benefits include feeling less lonely and demonstrating better social interactions by showing more signs of forgiveness, being outgoing, helpful, compassionate and exhibiting generosity.

How to cultivate gratitude?

1. Keep a gratitude journal: keeping a gratitude journal helps you record all the things you have to be grateful for on a regular basis. This exercise will remind you of all the blessings in your life, that may have been taken for granted. It encourages appreciation of those mundane moments that can be sources of joy.

2. Use the right words: “A single word has the power to influence and regulate physical and emotional stress.” Stop speaking about all that is going wrong and instead speak of all that is going right…even if it may be small in your eyes.

3. Remember: “Gratitude is the heart’s memory,” says the French proverb. Therefore, one of the first steps to thankfulness is to remember those in our lives who have walked with us and shown kindness for deeds big and small. I have been extremely fortunate to have so many positive mentors in my life, and I believe it is the same for others. It is always better to give roses to loved ones while they are alive to appreciate and enjoy them.

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.