An Attitude of Gratitude
By Melissa M. Smith, FNP
Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful or having the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Gratefulness is lacking in today’s society and can be difficult to instill, especially in children.
GRATITUDE: WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS
Our culture promotes materialism, which causes us to think that possessions are the source of our happiness. However, research shows that gratefulpeople are happier and healthier. In an article by Harvard Health Publishing, the writer notes studies that highlight the impact of gratitude on one’s overall well-being:
Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude. In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.
One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.
Another leading researcher in this field, Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. When their week’s assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.
Of course, studies such as this one cannot prove cause and effect. But most of the studies published on this topic support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being.
HOW TO BE GRATEFUL
The best lessons on gratitude are taught by experience and example. Here are some ways to promote gratefulness:
- Take time on a daily basis to notice good (activities, gifts, words – big and small).
- Journal positive experiences regularly.
- Write thank you notes.
- Say “thank you” to people who serve, care for, teach and help you in life.
We must learn to recognize the real value of what we have, not necessarily monetary value. In doing so, we may very well find the happiness (and good health) for which we have always been searching.
“In everything, give thanks.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding yours or a loved one’s behavioral or mental health, please contact our office.
Connections serves as a regional resource center providing medical, educational, speech/language and dyslexia evaluation services for children and teenagers.Following diagnosis, we work with you and your child to determine the best course of treatment and therapy for them. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at 601-261-5159.