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The Power of Gratitude

| March 11, 2013
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“If you rejoice in the way things are, the whole world will belong to you” 

Lao Tzu.

 

I once read a story about a recent immigrant to the United States. He was asked what the biggest surprise was when he finally arrived here. He gave two. The first, “The absolute abundance that is everywhere; in the malls, at the grocery stores and on the streets.” and the second, “Just how desensitized everyone has become to it. How much Americans take for granted,” he said. You really have no idea just how blessed you are.”

The story reminded me about one evening I had after a rather hectic day at the office in which nothing was going right, I decided to proceed to do what many of us have a tendency to do at these times­­­­, that is feel sorry for ourselves. But just before I invited everyone in for a pity party a thought occurred to me. The thought was that I really did not have it so bad. After all I happen to live in the greatest country in the world, I own a successful business, and I have a wonderful family just to mention a few of my many blessings. All of a sudden the feeling of gratitude overwhelmed me, I felt energized and much better overall.  

Gratitude is a very powerful emotion. It is a feeling expressing appreciation for what one has instead of regret for what one does not have or for what one feels entitled too.  

Gratitude is really a very timely message today since it’s very easy nowadays to focus on the bad economy, the corruption in Washington, poor unemployment and how tough things are now overall. But lets put this into perspective, a recent global study by the United Nations University, found that assets of just $2,200 per adult place a household in the top half of the worlds wealthiest. To be among the richest 10% of adults in this world, just $61,000 of assets is needed. If you have more than $500000, you are part of the richest 1%.   Think about this for a second. It only takes $2200 to qualify as rich in this world. Believe it or not half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day.  

But many tend to focus on what they don’t have instead of being grateful for the vast abundance that we do have as compared to the rest of the world.  

So how powerful is the feeling of gratitude? Research has shown that expressing gratitude in our lives increases happiness and decreases depression.1.  One study even showed a significant decrease in depression among those who practiced gratitude everyday for two weeks.  

Another amazing thing about gratitude, it is a fact of neurology that the brain cannot be in a state of appreciation and a state of fear at the same time.

Thus, when you create a state of appreciation, you are free from fear during that time. Therefore, gratitude is the antidote to fear.2.     

The positive psychology movement has embraced the above studies and in an effort to increase overall well being, has begun to make an effort to incorporate exercises to increase gratitude into the movement. Although in the past gratitude has been neglected by psychology, in recent years much progress has been made in studying gratitude and its positive effects.3.    

Gratitude works so well because it builds on itself as you feel grateful you powerfully bring like energy to you. You will attract more energy of people, circumstances and events that will bring more good into your life.  

On the other hand if you are ungrateful you will bring more things into your life to feel ungrateful about. This brings more negative emotions such as fear, jealousy, and resentment.  

The best way to understand the power of gratitude is to experience it firsthand the following is a couple of quick exercises to get you started.  

Exercise 1: First thing in the morning make a list of ten blessings in your life that you are grateful for. Next write why you are grateful for each blessing. Go back and read over your list feeling as grateful as you can for each blessing.  

Exercise 2: At the end of each day, before going to bed, write down three things that went well during the day. Do this every day for one week. The three things can be small or large in importance. After each positive event on your list answer the following question in your own words: Why did this good thing happen?  

That’s all there is to it. You can do one or both of these exercises at any time and as long as you would like. Feel free to share your results with me at [email protected] I would love to hear from you.

 

  1. ^ a b Wood, A. M., Joseph, S. & Maltby (2009). Gratitude predicts psychological well-being above the Big Five facets. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 655-660.
  2. Baker, Stauth 2003. What happy people Know   
  3. Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N.,& Peterson, C. (2005). Positive  psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421.

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