Peggy Marshall

An Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.  ~William Faulkner

During the month of November and particularly at Thanksgiving, we are often drawn to be reflective about what we are most grateful for.  Sometimes, this reflection can be just a little bit more difficult depending upon life’s circumstances. However, it is the ability to feel gratitude for the little things that opens the door to even greater things coming into our lives.  Joan Borysenko, in Louise Hay’s “Gratitude a Way of Life”  compares gratitude to a gearshift that moves our mental mechanism from obsession to peacefulness, from stuckedness to creativity and from fear to love.  She believes that being able to relax and be mindful flows naturally when we are in a space of gratitude.

Shawn Achor, in “The Happiness Advantage” says that consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving, and less likely to be depressed, anxious, or lonely.  In fact, Achor offers that researchers who trained volunteers to focus on gratefulness found increases in optimism, social connections, happiness, better sleep patterns and even decreases in headaches in just a few short weeks.  Imagine what you could do if you began a focus on gratitude in your life!

Dan Baker in “What Happy People Know”  also connects appreciation to happiness believing that it is fundamental to happiness.  Citing research, he offers that it is impossible to be in a state of appreciation and fear at the same time.  He believes that the state of active appreciation creates a process in which your brain, heart and endocrine system work synchronically to heal your body.

Other benefits of the experience of gratitude include:

  • Instantly lifts spirits
  • Builds synergy and closeness into relationships
  • Experiencing a more vibrant health
  • Stronger resiliency
  • More creativity
  • Make an impact in other’s lives
  • Sense of contentment

On a scale of 1-10 how grateful are you?  How often do you think about gratitude? What can you do to increase your feelings of gratefulness now?  What other rituals-beyond a journal-could you put in place to experience more gratefulness in your life?  Clients I have worked with make a practice of sending thank you notes consistently-not just for the big things but for the little things as well.  Some also send emails and make quick calls to thank others for the contribution they make. Another recommendation from Achor is to engage family members in gratitude exercises.  Starting the evening meal with three things each person is grateful for can lift spirits not just at the meal but throughout the evening.  It can become a ritual that families look forward to doing as a group.

Focusing on gratitude doesn’t mean taking large periods of time to make it happen.  A quick reflection as you are waking or just before you go to sleep can provide the benefits discussed earlier in this blog.  I think the following quote sums it up concisely:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.  –Melody Beattie

To Your Success!

Dr. Peggy