Appreciate the Good: Five Reasons to Start a Gratitude Practice
By Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN, CIPP
Next week in the United States, Thanksgiving will be celebrated. Thanksgiving symbolizes the start of the holiday season. Thanksgiving is a special day when Americans give thanks. This special holiday feeds the body with delicious food and the heart with sincerity. While it feels good to give thanks on that day, giving thanks daily will make us feel better in the long run. One of my favorite sayings when I was studying Positive Psychology was from professor and author, Tal Ben-Shahar: “when you appreciate the good, the good appreciates.”
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is more than an attitude or saying thanks. It’s a science that has been proven to have significant benefits. Robert Emmons, considered the father of the science of gratitude defines gratitude as, “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life.” This definition opens us to endless opportunities to be grateful. The challenge is remembering to do it every day, especially during the tough times.
Why is it important?
The best way to start the exercise is to know why it is important and how it can benefit you. Here are 5 reasons that caught my attention and inspired me to begin adding the gratitude practice into my life.
1. Resilience – Gratitude fosters resilience. A 2003 study found that gratitude was the main contributor to resilience following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York.
2. Relationships – Gratitude is the antidote for failed non-abusive relationships. A studyfound that couples who express gratitude for each other are motivated to maintain their relationship with each other.
3. REM – Gratitude before bedtime helps with sleep. A study in the Applied Psychology: Health and Well-being found that 15 minutes of writing in a gratitude journal before sleep promotes better sleep.
4. Rich – Gratitude cancels out envy. According to Robert Emmons, gratitude blocks toxic emotions such as envy, regret, and depression because gratitude makes you feel rich and feel you have more than enough.
5. Rejoice – Gratitude is linked to a happiness booster according to Harvard University study. If you need a quick way to cheer up, start listing some things you are grateful for to turn your emotions around.
I hope one or all of these reasons inspired you to begin a gratitude practice. If you have one already, thank you. If not, try any one of these techniques.
1. Journal – Start a gratitude journal. This was the first gratitude exercise that I did and it helped me during the good and the bad times of my life. This exercise trained my brain to look for the good in all situations. It was extremely helpful when I was coping with my mother’s three cancer journeys.
2. WWW? – What Went Well? Is a question that helped me teach my husband and three boys the practice of gratitude without being too “mushy”. This question has helped me and my family cultivate the practice of gratitude. Next time you are with your friend or family ask, “What went well?” and notice all the goodness that come out of this powerful question.
3. Walk – As you walk from one place to another, find as many objects to be grateful for. This helps increase my level of energy and happiness when I feel tired or anxious. It can definitely turn your “frown upside down.”
4. Jar – Collect moments of gratitude in a jar. This is a great practice for you and your group. This exercise is a positivity booster and it’s fun to watch as the gratitude fills the jar. Reading gratitude from the gratitude jar is another way to deepen relationships in the group and improve communication.
5. Letter – Writing a gratitude letter to someone you love and has greatly influenced you is a proven gratitude technique that has shown to create lasting positive emotions. Once you write your gratitude letter, deliver the letter in person and read the letter to that special someone.
Thank you for reading this article. I hope that it has inspired you enough to begin a gratitude practice. Try one of the gratitude practices that I shared with you for the next 30 days and watch your appreciation grow.
I am grateful for…
This year I have so much to be grateful for. Besides my awesome family and friends, I am grateful for publishing my coloring book, The Happiness Result Art Therapy Coloring Book – Express & Enjoy Yourself. This book is going to be available next week on my website, www.TheHappinessResult.com.
Also, I am grateful for doing my first online course called, Therapeutic Arts: Art Therapy Based Practice for Self-care, Self- healing, and Mindfulness. This is terrific course that I created with master trainer and colleague, Patrick Howell. Here’s the link for you to get your special price and immediate access to the course https://www.udemy.com/artstherapycourse/?couponCode=NEWSLETTER.
Lastly, I am grateful for you and your continued support and interest in my health and happiness message.