The attitude of gratitude

One of my regular practices for mindful magnificence is gratitude. I believe that if we regularly choose to be grateful, it leads to a more prosperous, happier, more fulfilling life.

What is gratitude?

According to Robert A. Emmons, thought to be the world's leading scientific expert on gratitude, it has two components.

The first component is an affirmation of goodness, recognising that there are good things in the world and the benefits we have received as a result.

The second is identifying the source of the goodness, an individual or mother nature perhaps. Emmons states that this is acknowledging that the origin comes from outside ourselves and that true gratitude is a humble dependence on others, but I believe that the source can be from within ourselves such as a particular skill or personality trait.

Cultivating gratitude 

For an easy way to experience gratitude every day, I recommend gratitude journaling. You can do this in the morning when you wake, or just before you go to sleep at night. Write down a minimum of five things you are grateful for, visualising them clearly in your mind as you write.

Try to vary them up every day to avoid it getting too repetitive. It is particularly effective if you elaborate on why you are grateful for them. If writing it down isn't for you, say them in your mind or out loud. However you list them it increases wellbeing and creates mindful magnificence because it guides your mind into more positive thinking and helps to eliminate destructive, blameful and ungrateful thoughts.

If you get stuck thinking of ideas, gratitude prompts are a great help. They have one simple instruction: fill in the blank. The goal is to think of three things in a specific category that you are grateful for, for example:

  • I’m grateful for three things I hear:
  • I’m grateful for three things I see:
  • I’m grateful for three things I smell:
  • I’m grateful for three things I touch/feel:
  • I'm grateful for three purple things:
  • I'm grateful for these free family members
  • I'm grateful for these three objects in my home

A gratitude jar is a fun way to practice gratitude. Buy, or recycle, a large jar and decorate it, such as using glass paint or tying a ribbon around the rim. At the end of each week, write down a minimum of seven things you have been grateful for throughout the week (ideally on coloured paper) and pop them in the jar. Over time you'll have a beautiful collection of things to be thankful for. If you are ever feeling down, you can dip into it for a pick-me-up. You could even make it interactive by having multiple jars with your loved ones in which you write down why you were grateful for them throughout the week.

Anchors are equally simple and effective. Pick an object, such as a smooth pebble or a bracelet, and whenever you see it or touch it pause to think about at least one thing you are grateful for. It can help you to come out of a negative spiral. You can even get dedicated gratitude bracelets, for which you touch each bead in turn and think of something for which to be thankful.

It is easy to find gratitude for positive aspects of our lives. However, a powerful practice is to seek gratitude for difficult situations in our lives by acknowledging what they have taught us and appreciating the personal growth experienced as a result of them. For example, I am thankful for developing greater resilience and learning greater independence. If you are still holding onto negative emotions and resentment for these happenings, you can combine this with the ho'oponopono technique for maximum effect.

Why practice gratitude?

Gratitude has many benefits. I will outline just some below.

Firstly it has emotional benefits, helping to block toxic emotions and enhance positive ones. 

Researcher Chih-Che Lin found that, even when accounting for personality as a control, a high level of gratitude has a strong positive impact on psychological well-being, self-esteem, and depression.

Simply journaling for five minutes a day about what we are grateful for can enhance our long-term happiness by over 10% (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). 

Gratitude can also have physical benefits. According to research by Wendy Berry Mendes, an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, people who have high levels of gratitude show lower resting blood pressure and are less reactive to stressful events. When she analysed their blood samples, she found that they showed fewer risk factors for cardiovascular disease: they had higher levels of good cholesterol, lower levels of bad cholesterol—and lower levels of creatinine, indicating healthy kidney function.

It can also improve your sleep. According to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, can help you sleep better and longer.

Gratitude also has the power to improve relationships. For example, a study by Sara Algoe, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, tracked men and women in long-term romantic relationships for two weeks. She asked them to report each day whether their partners had done anything nice for them and how much gratitude they felt toward them as a result. When participants felt grateful for their partner’s kindness on one day, they felt significantly more satisfied with their relationship the following day. The partners of these newly grateful men and women also felt more connected to them and more satisfied with their relationship than they had on the previous day.

What are you grateful for, and how do you bring gratitude into your life? I'd love to hear from you.


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