“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
As we prepare to celebrate our ten-year anniversary as a medical education provider, we wanted to take the opportunity to share a few things to help us all focus on being thankful.
A 2012 study that was published in Personality and Individual Differences reports that grateful people experience fewer aches and pains as well as feeling healthier than other people. They found that these “grateful” people were more likely to attend regular check-ups and even exercise more often, which contributes to a happier and longer life.
Another highly respected researcher on gratitude reports that gratitude decreases the effects of toxic emotions like envy, resentment, frustration and regret and seemingly increases an overall sense of well-being. This same study by Robert Emmons, states that quite simply, gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.
These studies that emphasize the importance of gratitude on health and happiness go on and on; like the 2012 study by the University of Kentucky that states that gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Maybe you would prefer the 2011 study published in Applied Psychology that reports grateful people actually sleep better by writing in a gratitude journal nightly.
Maybe just a couple more, the 2014 study that was published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology findings that gratitude increases athletes’ self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance. Then the 2003 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 and that it was gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the major terrorist attacks on September 11.
The research is just so clear on this issue…gratitude is essential for a long and happy life!
So, now we know how important gratitude is, what practical steps can we take to apply a life style of gratitude to our life and practice? Here is a short list of things you can start doing today to begin your gratitude journey:
- Keep a Gratitude Journal. As we alluded earlier in this piece, writing a few items down nightly is shown to increase the quality of sleep and restfulness. Establish a nightly routine where you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits and good things that you experienced in that day. Yes, it was a tough shift, but you worked through it and you had a great team to work with.
- Ask yourself the Three Questions. There is a popular meditation technique known as Naiken, which involves reflecting on three questions: “What have I received from_____?”, “What have I given to____?”, and “What have troubles and difficulties have I caused____?”
- Remember the Bad. Yes, this is a bit of a backwards statement in a gratitude list, but to be truly grateful, it’s helpful to remember the hard times that you once might have experienced. This is not an invitation to live in that past bad times memories, but rather a place you use to contrast in your mind to create a fertile ground for gratefulness.
- Come to Your Senses. It is through your senses, the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear that we can gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive.
- Use Visual Reminders. To go right along with your senses and because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. Very often it is that late night trip to the baby’s room, looking at that tiny human creates a visual reminder of how grateful we are.
- Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I vow to count my blessings each day,” and post it somewhere that you will be reminded of it every day.
- Watch your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. In gratitude, you should not focus on how inherently good you are, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.
- Go through the motions. When we take time to go through the grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and even writing letters of gratitude.
- Think outside the Box. Everyday there are opportunities to creatively look for new situations and circumstances where you can feel grateful.
You, yes you reading this blog…You are an amazing individual. We are thankful for you! We are so very grateful to all of the students that we have been able to serve over the last ten years, and look forward to serving you for many many more years to come.