The Benefits of Gratitude…Make Every Day a Day of Thanksgiving

If you want to turn your life around, try THANKFULNESS. It will change your life mightily Gerald Good

So it’s the day after Thanksgiving here in the United States of America! I don’t know about you but I have Soooooo much to be Thankful for! I will make my remarks brief today. I want to make sure that you have time to read today’s blog post that I am sharing from www.happierhuman.com. I hope you will read it, take it to heart, and then share it with someone else so they can benefit as well!

The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life

Do you want more from your life?

More happiness? Better health? Deeper relationships? Increased productivity?

What if I told you that just one thing can help you in all of those areas?

An Attitude of Gratitude

What the heck? Gratitude? Is this a Christian blog?

No. I’m not even religious. When I first started looking into gratitude, I wasn’t expecting much.

I was wrong:

Seriously? All that? Yes. This list of benefits was compiled by aggregating the results of more than 40 research studies on gratitude.

1. Gratitude makes us happier.

A five-minute a day gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent.a1,a2,a3 That’s the same impact as doubling your income!a4

How can a free five minute activity compare? Gratitude improves our health, relationships, emotions, personality, and career.

Sure, having more money can be pretty awesome, but because of hedonic adaptation we quickly get used to it and stop having as much fun and happiness as we did at first.

How can 5 minutes a day have such a large impact? (click to show)

Gratitude makes us feel more gratitude.

This is why a five-minute a week gratitude journal can make us so much happier. The actual gratitude produced during those five minutes is small, but the emotions of gratitude felt during those five-minutes are enough to trigger a grateful mood.

While in a grateful mood, we will feel gratitude more frequently, when we do feel gratitude it will be more intense and held for longer, and we will feel gratitude for more things at the same time.

In five words – gratitude triggers positive feedback loops.

Hedonic what?

After repeated exposure to the same emotion-producing stimulus, we tend to experience less of the emotion. Put more simply, we get use to the good things that happen to us. This also means that we get use to the bad things that happen to us. Those who have been disabled have a remarkable ability to rebound – initially they may feel terrible, but after months or years they are on average just as happy as everyone else.

Hedonic adaptation gives unparalleled resiliency and keeps us motivated to achieve ever greater things. It also kills our marriages – we get use to our amazing spouse (or kids, or job, or house, or car, or game). We stop seeing as much positive and start complaining. It is a psychological imperative to fight hedonic adaptation if we want to maximize happiness. Gratitude is one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal.

Why does it take several months?

In all relevant studies, changes occurred slowly. It took several months of continuous practice for the largest benefits to appear. This is for two reasons:

  1. Cultivating gratitude is a skill. After three months of practice, I now have the ability to self-generate slight feelings of gratitude and happiness on command. With more time and practice, I expect the intensity and duration of the generated feelings to increase.
  2. Gratitude is a personality trait. Some people have more grateful personalities than others. Daily gratitude practice can change our personality, but that takes a long time.

2. Gratitude makes people like us.

Gratitude generates social capital – in two studies with 243 total participants, those who were 10% more grateful than average had 17.5% more social capital.b1

Gratitude makes us nicer, more trusting, more social, and more appreciative. As a result, it helps us make more friends, deepen our existing relationships, and improve our marriage.b2

3. Gratitude makes us healthier.

There is even reason to believe gratitude can extend your lifespan by a few months or even years.f2,f3,f4

4. Gratitude boosts our career.

Gratitude makes you a more effective manager,c1,c2 helps you network, increases your decision making capabilities, increases your productivity, and helps you get mentors and proteges.b1 As a result, gratitude helps you achieve your career goals, as well as making your workplace a more friendly and enjoyable place to be.a2, b2

I’m not suggesting that criticism and self-focus don’t have a place in the workplace, but I think we’re overdoing it.

65% of Americans didn’t receive recognition in the workplace last year.c3

5. Gratitude strengthens our emotions.

Gratitude reduces feelings of envy, makes our memories happier, lets us experience good feelings, and helps us bounce back from stress.b2,d1,d2,d3

6. Gratitude develops our personality.

It really does, and in potentially life-changing ways.a2,b2,d2,e1,e2

If you’re a man, don’t worry; gratitude won’t transform you into a woman.

Convinced of the benefits? Sign up for The Gratitude Hack, the course I created with the sole focus of helping you live a happier, more grateful life.

7. Gratitude makes us more optimistic.

Gratitude is strongly correlated with optimism. Optimism in turn makes us happier, improves our health, and has been shown to increase lifespan by as much as a few years.f1,f2,f3,f4 I’d say a 5 minute a day gratitude journal would be worth it just for this benefit.

  • In one study of keeping a weekly gratitude journal, participants showed a 5% increase in optimism.
  • In another study, keeping a daily gratitude journal resulted in a 15% increase in optimism.
  • Optimism is significantly correlated with gratitude (r=.51). The above studies show that it isn’t just correlation – increasing one’s level of gratitude increases one’s level of optimism.

The act of gratitude is the act of focusing on the good in life. If we perceive our current life to have more good, we will also believe our future life to have more good. Optimism is correlated with gratitude because those with an optimistic disposition are biologically more likely to focus on the good (gratitude) than on the bad (personal disappointment, anxiety, etc…).

8. Gratitude reduces materialism.

Materialism is strongly correlated with reduced well-being and increased rates of mental disorder.g1 There’s nothing wrong with wanting more. The problem with materialism is that it makes people feel less competent, reduces feelings of relatedness and gratitude, reduces their ability to appreciate and enjoy the good in life, generates negative emotions, and makes them more self-centered.g1,g2,g3

Why is materialism negatively correlated with happiness and well-being?

The pursuit of wealth and power has been shown in dozens of studies to be a highly inefficient method of increasing well-being and happiness. To be sure, if your income doubles you will be slightly happier. But how much effort do you think is involved in doubling your income? How many sacrifices are required? Motivational speakers will tell you that the money is worth the sacrifices. I disagree.

Applying that same level of energy towards strengthening one’s relationships, cultivating compassion and gratitude, and so on much more reliably creates positive, transformative change.

Said differently, material success is not a very important factor in the happiness of highly grateful people.

How does gratitude reduce materialism?

Materialism flows from two sources: role models and insecurity.

  1. Americans are inundated with materialistic role models every day: from advertisements which highlight materialistic themes, to celebrity culture which glorifies the rich and frivolous, to business culture in which we are told our dreams should be to be rich and powerful. Gratitude helps by reducing our tendency to compare ourselves to those with a higher social status.
  2. Those who are insecure, that is, those that have not had their basic psychological needs met (e.g. those who lack confidence, come from a poor background, or had unsupportive parents), are more likely to be materialistic. Gratitude is an effective strategy for reducing insecurity. A grateful emotion is triggered when we perceive an act of benevolence directed towards us.  Those who are dispositionally ungrateful are therefore less likely to perceive acts of benevolence, even if they are surrounded by a loving environment. Flipped around, those who cultivate an attitude of gratitude are more likely to perceive an environment of benevolence, which in turn causes their brains to assume they are in an environment full of social support, which in turn kills insecurity and materialism.

Will gratitude make me lazy?

Those who are more materialistic are more likely to relentlessly pursue wealth. So while gratitude won’t make you lazy, over your lifetime you may end up earning less money. You will instead re-focus on other things. You may, for example, spend time with friends, family, and your hobbies. That’s a good thing.

Gratitude has caused me to focus less on things that don’t matter, like making money, and more on the things that do, like my family and this blog. I think that’s a good thing.

9. Gratitude increases spiritualism.

Spiritual transcendence is highly correlated with feelings of gratitude. That is – the more spiritual you are, the more likely you are to be grateful.

This is for two reasons:

  1. All major religions espouse gratitude as a virtue.h1
  2. Spirituality spontaneously gives rise to grateful behavior.

I believe the opposite to also be true, that gratitude spontaneously gives rise to spiritual attribution, helping one feel closer to God or other religious entities. I am irreligious, and have found gratitude practices to make my spiritual position difficult – those moments when I feel intense gratitude make me want to believe in a benevolent God. My solution has been to re-direct my feelings towards Lady Luck.

Why does spirituality give rise to grateful behavior?

Many of the sub-traits associated with spirituality are the same sub-traits associated with gratitude. For example, spiritual individuals are more likely to feel a strong spiritual or emotional connection with others, and to believe in inter-connectedness. Both are prerequisites for feeling gratitude – someone who feels weak connections with others, and who believes in the illusion of self-sufficiency is unlikely to feel gratitude.

10. Gratitude makes us less self-centered.

I’ll be totally honest, I’m a self-centered twat. I’m a lot better now that I’ve brought gratitude into my life, but I still spend way too much time thinking about myself, and too little thinking about others. I expect this to change – because of my compassion and gratitude practices I am starting to have spontaneous urges to help others.

This is because the very nature of gratitude is to focus on others (on their acts of benevolence). In this regard, gratitude practice can be better than self-esteem therapy. Self-esteem therapy focuses the individual back on themselves: I’m smart, I look good, I can succeed, etc….

That can work, but it can also make us narcissistic or even back-fire and lower self-esteem.i1

11. Gratitude increases self-esteem.

Imagine a world where no one helps you. Despite your asking and pleading, no one helps you.

Now imagine a world where many people help you all of the time for no other reason than that they like you. In which world do you think you would have more self-esteem? Gratitude helps to create a world like that.

How does gratitude create a more supportive social dynamic?

Gratitude does this in two ways:

  1. Gratitude has been shown in multiple studies to make people kinder and more friendly, and that because of that, grateful people have more social capital. This means that grateful people are actually more likely to receive help from others for no reason other than that they are liked and appreciated.
  2. Gratitude increases your recognition of benevolence. For example, a person with low self-esteem may view an act of kindness with a skeptical eye, thinking that the benefactor is trying to get something from them. A grateful person would take the kindness at face value, believing themselves to be a person worthy of receiving no-strings-attached kindness.

12. Gratitude improves your sleep.

Gratitude increases sleep quality, reduces the time required to fall asleep, and increases sleep duration. Said differently, gratitude can help with insomnia.a2,j1

The key is what’s on our minds as we’re trying to fall asleep. If it’s worries about the kids, or anxiety about work, the level of stress in our body will increase, reducing sleep quality, keeping us awake, and cutting our sleep short.

If it’s thinking about a few things we have to be grateful for today, it will induce the relaxation response, knock us out, and keep us that way.

Yes – gratitude is a (safe and free) sleep aid.

I don’t believe you!

In one study of 65 subjects with a chronic pain condition, those who were assigned a daily gratitude journal to be completed at night reported half an hour more sleep than the control group.a2

In another study of 400 healthy people, those participants who had higher scores on a gratitude test also had significantly better sleep. They reported faster time to sleep, improved sleep quality, increased sleep duration, and less difficulty staying awake during the day.j1 This is not because their life was simply better – levels of gratitude are more dependent on personality and life perspective than on life situation.

13. Gratitude keeps you away from the doctor.

Gratitude can’t cure cancer (neither can positive-thinking), but it can strengthen your physiological functioning.

Positive emotion improves health. The details are complicated, but the overall picture is not – if you want to improve your health, improve your mind. This confidence comes from 137 research studies.

Gratitude is a positive emotion. It’s no far stretch that some of the benefits (e.g. better coping & management of terminal conditions like cancer and HIV,k1,k2 faster recovery from certain medical procedures, positive changes in immune system functioning,k3 more positive health behavior,k4,k5 etc…) apply to gratitude as well.

In fact, some recent science shows just that – those who engage in gratitude practices have been shown to feel less pain, go to the doctor less often, have lower blood pressure, and be less likely to develop a mental disorder.a1,a2,k6

How does gratitude improve my health?

The science on how is still unclear. Here are two ideas:

  • Gratitude reduces levels of stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Stress in turn has been shown to disrupt healthy body functioning (e.g disrupting the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, the immune system, our sleep, etc…).
  • Gratitude encourages pro-health behavior like exercising and paying attention to health risks.

14. Gratitude lets you live longer.

I will be honest with you – by combining the results of a few different studies I’m confident that gratitude can extend lifespan, but no single study as yet has actually proven this claim.

Here is what we know: optimism and positive emotion in general have been used to successfully predict mortality decades later.f2,f3,f4 The optimistic lived a few years longer than the pessimistic. A few years may not sound like much, but I know when I’m about to die I’d like to have a few more years!

We also know that gratitude is strongly correlated with positive emotion. So, gratitude –> positive emotion –> an extra few months or years on earth. With positive psychology research on the rise, I believe we can expect this claim to be rigorously tested within the next five to ten years.

15. Gratitude increase your energy levels.

Gratitude and vitality are strongly correlated – the grateful are much more likely to report physical and mental vigor.

Show me the data.

  • Study of 238 people found a correlation of .46 between vitality and gratitude.
  • Study of 1662 people found a correlation of .38 between vitality and gratitude. Same study found correlations above .3 even after controlling for the levels of: extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, and perceived social desirability.e2   This means that vitality and gratitude are strongly correlated even after considering the possibility that they are correlated because high-energy people and high-gratitude people share personality traits like extroversion in common.

Do people with more energy tend to experience more gratitude, does gratitude lead to increased energy, or is something else going on?

I believe it’s two of those three:

  1. People with high levels of vitality tend to have some of the same traits that highly grateful people do, like high levels of optimism and life satisfaction.
  2. Gratitude increases physical and mental well-being, which in turn increases energy levels.

16. Gratitude makes you more likely to exercise.

In one 11-week study of 96 Americans, those who were instructed to keep a weekly gratitude journal exercised 40 minutes more per week than the control group.a2 No other study has yet to replicate these results. It could be because other gratitude studies testing this effect have been much shorter – in the range of one to three weeks, or it could be because this result was a fluke.

Once again, time will tell – but it would not surprise me if being grateful for one’s health would increase one’s tendency to want to protect it by exercising more.

17. Gratitude helps us bounce back.

 
Those that have more gratitude have a more pro-active coping style, are more likely to have and seek out social support in times of need, are less likely to develop PTSD, and are more likely to grow in times of stress.b1,b2,d1

In others words, they are more resilient.
18. Gratitude makes us feel good.

Surprise, surprise: gratitude actually feels good. Yet only 20% of Americans rate gratitude as a positive and constructive emotion (compared to 50% of Europeans).l1

According to gratitude researcher Robert Emmons, gratitude is just happiness that we recognize after-the fact to have been caused by the kindness of others.  Gratitude doesn’t just make us happier, it is happiness in and of itself!

That’s no surprise – we idealize the illusion of self-sufficiency. Gratitude, pah! That’s for the weak.

F&ck no it’s not. Gratitude feels good, and if the benefits on this page are any indication – gratitude will make you stronger, healthier, and more successful.

Are you afraid to admit that luck, God, family members, friends, and/or strangers have and will continue to strongly influence your life? I once was – not only was I less happy, I was also weaker. It takes strength to admit to the truth of inter-dependency.

19. Gratitude makes our memories happier.

Our memories are not set in stone, like data stored on a hard-drive. There are dozens of ways our memories get changed over time – we remember things as being worse than they actually were, as being longer or shorter, people as being kinder or crueler, as being more or less interesting, and so on.

Experiencing gratitude in the present makes us more likely to remember positive memories,m1 and actually transforms some of our neutral or even negative memories into positive ones.m2 In one study, putting people into a grateful mood helped them find closure of upsetting open memories.m2 During these experiences, participants were more likely to recall positive aspects of the memory than usual, and some of the negative and neutral aspects were transformed into positives.

What’s going on with my memory!?

It’s called cognitive biases. Here are two great books on the subject: Thinking, Fast and Slow (written by the founder of behavioral economics, Daniel Kahneman), and Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me).

20. Gratitude reduces feelings of envy.

A small bit of jealousy or envy directed at the right target is motivating. Too much produces feelings of insecurity, materialism, inferiority, distrust, and unhappiness.

How does gratitude reduce feelings of envy?

The personality trait of envy has a correlation of -.39 with the personality trait of gratitude. In addition, on days when people experience more gratitude, they are also more likely to experience less envy.e2

This is likely because an attitude of envy and an attitude of gratitude are largely incompatible. Just like it is impossible to feel optimistic and pessimistic at the same time, gratitude is the act of perceiving benevolence, while envy and jealousy is the act of perceiving inadequacy. Benevolence and inadequacy cannot be completely perceived at the same time.

21. Gratitude helps us relax.

Gratitude and positive emotion in general are among the strongest relaxants known to man. I was having trouble sleeping a few nights ago because I was too stressed and couldn’t relax. I’ll be honest, for the few minutes that I was able to hold feelings of gratitude I almost fell asleep, but holding feelings of gratitude is hard! In this case, too hard – I ended up getting out of bed.

Gratitude may be just as or even more effective than relaxation methods such as deep breathing, but because it is also more difficult, is unfeasible as an actual relaxation technique. Think of it like tea – one or two cups help you relax – three of four make you want to empty your bladder.   But it could just be me. Perhaps you’ll find practices of gratitude more natural and easy.

22. Gratitude makes you friendlier.

Multiple studies have shown that gratitude induces pro-social behavior. Keeping a gratitude journal is enough to make you more likely to help others with their problems and makes you more likely to offer them emotional support.a2,b1

Why?

There are two main reasons.

  1. Gratitude helps us perceive kindness, which we have a natural tendency to want to reciprocate. Without the feeling of gratitude, we may not recognize when someone is helping us (the same way anger lets us know when someone is trying to harm us).
  2. Gratitude makes us happier and more energetic, both of which are highly linked to pro-social behavior.

23. Gratitude helps your marriage.

I’ve never been married, but from what I’ve heard, read, and seen, one way marriages start to suffer is that when the passion starts to fizzle, the partners become less appreciative and more naggy.

Scientists have put numbers to our intuition and experience, creating an appreciation to naggy ratio. More formally called the Losada ratio, it divides the total number of positive expressions (support, encouragement and appreciation) made during a typical interaction by the number of negative expressions (disapproval, sarcasm, and cynicism).

When the ratio was below .9, that is there were 11% more negative expressions than positive expressions, marriages plummeted towards divorce or languishment. Those marriages that lasted and were found satisfying were those with a positivity ratio above 5.1 (five positive expressions to each negative).s1

Building regular practices of gratitude into your marriage is an easy but effective way of raising your positivity ratio.

Correlation or causality?

Does the positivity ratio actually change the dynamics of a marriage, or does it simply reflect underlying happiness or conflict? Would ‘faking’ a higher positivity ratio actually change the dynamics of your marriage, or would it be the same as faking your income on a survey – it may let you temporarily feel better, but it doesn’t actually make you any richer?

There is reason to believe it is both. What we say and how we act becomes who we are. Faking a smile has been shown to actually make people happier. But the effect is only so strong. I believe that for gratitude to truly effect a marriage, it must come from the heart. With enough practice and effort, it can.

P.S. You shouldn’t take the numbers too literally. A good rule of thumb is three or four positives for each negative means you’re doing well.

24. Gratitude makes you look good.

Ingratitude is universally regarded with contempt.  It’s opposite, gratitude, is considered a virtue in all major religions and most modern cultures. It may not be sexy to be grateful, but people will respect you for it.

Gratitude is not the same thing as indebtedness, which we rightly avoid. Indebtedness is a negative emotion which carries an assumption of repayment.

Gratitude is not the same thing as weakness. Weakness is flattery or subservience.

Gratitude is the acknowledgment of kindness with thanks.

It takes big balls to acknowledge that we didn’t get to where we are all on our own – that without others we may never have made it. That’s why, just maybe, gratitude may be sexy too.

25. Gratitude helps you make friends.

When I was in college I found it really easy to make new friends. If I hadn’t moved out of NYC it would still be easy – living in a farm town makes it difficult. I’ve found an effective way to start a conversation or move a relationship forward is an expression of gratitude, “thank you for that coffee, it was super delicious.” *wink, wink*

Ah, my mistake – that’s actually what I use to hit on my barista.

But you get the point.

26. Gratitude deepens friendships.

I have one friend who always deeply thanks me for taking the time to see her. That makes me feel appreciated and that makes me feel good. Wouldn’t it make you feel good too?

27. Gratitude makes you a more effective manager.

Effective management requires a toolbox of skills. Criticism comes all too easily to most, while the ability to feel gratitude and express praise is often lacking.

Timely, sincere, specific, behavior focused praise is often a more powerful method of influencing change than criticism. Specifically, multiple studies have found expressions of gratitude to be highly motivating, while expressions of criticism to be slightly de-motivating but providing more expectation clarification.t1,t2

Contrary to expectation, if praise is moderate and behavior focused, repeat expressions of gratitude will not lose their impact, and employee performance will increase.2

Because of our culture, expressions of gratitude are often difficult to give – cultivating an attitude of gratitude will help.

I’ve seen firsthand the powerful difference between interacting with subordinates more with praise, and interacting with some more with criticism. Those I’ve given more praise are more enthusiastic about working with me, express more creativity, and are so much more fun to work with

28. Gratitude helps you network.

Gratitude has been shown across a number of studies to increase social behavior. Two longitudinal studies showed that those with higher levels of gratitude actually developed more social capital than those with lower levels.

Gratitude helps you get mentors, proteges, and benefactors.

Those who are more grateful are more likely to help others, and to pay it forward, that is, to take on mentoring relationships. But I’m guessing you care more about getting help from mentors and benefactors than being a mentor yourself. Well, that makes sense – having one or more mentors dramatically increases one’s success rate.

The first level is simple – those who are grateful are more social and also more likely to ask for help. But it goes one step further – we all ask for help at one time, one of the key differences between one-off help and establishing a mentoring relationship is gratitude.

Flipped around, what is it that makes a person want to help you on a continuous basis? Gratitude – when their wisdom, experience, and time are well appreciated, mentors will find enjoyment from the process, continuing to help you for weeks, months, or years.

29. Gratitude increases your goal achievement.

In one study, participants were asked to write down those goals which they wished to accomplish over the next two months. Those who were instructed to keep a gratitude journal reported more progress on achieving their goals at the end of the study. One result doesn’t make science – what you should take away from this is that, at the least, gratitude will not make you lazy and passive. It might even do the opposite!

30. Gratitude improves your decision making.

Decision making is really tiring – so tiring that we automate to our subconscious much of the reasoning that goes behind making a decision. Even for the most basic of decisions, like where to go eat, there are dozens of variables to consider: how much time and money do I want to spend, what cuisine would I like today, am I willing to travel far, what should I get once I get there, and so on. If you deliberated on each of these decisions one at a time, your mind would be overwhelmed.

The problem gets even worse for more complex decisions like making a diagnosis.

In one study, doctors were given a list of ailments from a hypothetical patient and also given a misleading piece of information—that the patient had been diagnosed at another hospital as having lupus. Half the doctors had gratitude evoked by giving them a token of appreciation. Those who did not receive a token of appreciation were more likely to stick with the incorrect diagnosis of lupus; those who did receive the gratitude were energized to expend more energy and to pay their gratitude forward onto their patient. They also considered a wider range of treatment options.

The above study shows that gratitude motivates improved decision making. Those who cultivate an attitude of gratitude find tokens of appreciation every day, on their own.

31. Gratitude increases your productivity.

Those who are insecure have difficulty focusing because many of their mental resources are tied up with their worries. On the other hand, those who are highly confident are able to be more productive, because they can direct more of their focus towards their work. This operates at both a conscious and subconscious level – we may be getting mentally distracted by our worries, or more commonly, parts of our subconscious mind are expending energy to suppress negative information and concerns.z1

As gratitude has been shown to increase self-esteem and reduce insecurity, this means that it can help us focus and improve our productivity.

Gratitude is no cure-all, but it is a massively underutilized tool for improving life-satisfaction and happiness.

References

a1. Positive Psychology Progress (2005, Seligman, M. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C.)
a2. Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life
a3. Gratitude Uniquely Predicts Satisfaction with Life: Incremental Validity Above the Domains and Facets of the Five Factor Model
a4. Sacks, D. W., Stevenson, B., & Wolfers, J. (2012). The new stylized facts about income and subjective well-being. Emotion, 12(6), 1181.
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b2. Why Gratitude Enhances Well-Being: What We Know, What We Need to Know
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c3. This number has been floating around the internet, but I was actually unable to find the original source. It may be wrong, or I may not have looked in the right places.
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d2. Positive Responses to Benefit and Harm: Bringing Forgiveness and Gratitude into Cognitive Psychotherapy
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f3. Optimistics vs. Pessimists Survival Rate Among Medical Patients Over a 30-Year Period
f4. Prediction of All-Cause Mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale Scores: Study of a College Sample During a 40-Year Follow-up Period.
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j1. Gratitude Influences Sleep Through the Mechanism of Pre-Sleep Cognitions
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k2. Stanton A, Snider P. Coping with a breast cancer diagnosis: A prospective study. Health Psychol. 1993; 12(1): 16–23 [serial online].
k3. Segerstrom S, Taylor S, Kemeny M, Fahey J. Optimism is associated with mood, coping and immune change in response to stress. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1998; 74(6): 1646–1655 [serial online].
k4. Taylor SE, Kemeny ME, Aspinwall LG, Schneider SG, Rodriguez R, Herbert M. Optimism, coping, psychological distress, and high-risk sexual behavior among men at risk for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). J Pers Soc Psychol. 1992; 63: 460–473.
k5. Giltay EJ, Geleijnse JM, Zitman FG, Buijsse B, Kromhout D. Lifestyle and dietary correlates of dispositional optimism in men: The Zutphen Elderly Study. J Psychosom Res. 2007; 63: 483–490.
k6. Gratitude: Effects on Perspective and Blood Pressure (2007)
l1. Emotion and Social Context: An American—German Comparison
m1. Watkins, P.C., D.L. Grimm and R. Kolts: 2004, #Counting your blessings:
Positive memories among grateful persons#, Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, Social 23, pp. 52–67.
m2. Watkins, P. C., Cruz, L., Holben, H., & Kolts, R. L. (2008). Taking Care of Business? Grateful Processing of Unpleasant Memories. Journal of Positive Psychology, 3, 87-99.
s1. Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive Affect and the Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing. American Psychologist, 60(7), 678-686. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.60.7.678
t1. Stone, D. I., & Stone, E. F. (1983). The Effects of Feedback Favorability and Feedback Consistency. Academy Of Management Proceedings (00650668), 178-182. doi:10.5465/AMBPP.1983.4976341
t2. Jaworski, B. J., & Kohl, A. K. (1991). Supervisory Feedback: Alternative Types and Their Impact on Salespeople’s Performance and Satisfaction.  Journal Of Marketing Research (JMR), 28(2), 190-201.
z1. What Neuroscience Reveals about the Nature of Business. Jeffrey L. Fannin, Ph.D. and Robert M. Williams, M.A.

Today’s article was written by Amit Amin and is shared from the following website: http://happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/

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What’s it Like in Your Town?

Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world. Wayne Dyer

Once there was an old and very wise man. Every day he would sit outside a gas station in his rocking chair and wait to greet motorists as they passed through his small town. On this day, his granddaughter knelt down at the foot of his chair and slowly passed the time with him.

As they sat and watched the people come and go, a tall man who surely had to be a tourist-since they knew everyone in the town-began looking around as if he were checking out the area for a place to live. The stranger walked up and asked, “So what kind of town is this we’re in?” The older gentleman slowly turned to the man and replied, “Well, what kind of town are you from?” The tourist said, “in the town I am from everyone is very critical of each other. The neighbors all gossip about everyone and it’s a real negative place to live. I’m sure glad to be leaving. It is not a very cheerful place.” The man in the chair looked at the stranger and said, “You know, that’s just how this town is.”

An hour or so later a family that was also passing through stopped for gas. The car slowly turned in and rolled up to a stop in front of where the older gentleman and his granddaughter were sitting. The mother jumped out with two small children and asked where the restrooms were. The man in the chair pointed to a small, bent-up sign that was barely hanging by one nail on the side of the door. The father stepped out of the car and also asked the man, “Is this town a pretty good place to live?” The man in the chair replied, “What about the town you are from? How is it? The father looked at him and said, “Well, in the town I’m from everyone is very close and always willing to lend their neighbor a helping hand. There’s always a hello and thank you everywhere you go. I really hate to leave. I feel almost like we are leaving family.” The older gentleman turned to the father and gave him a warm smile. “You know, that’s a lot like this small town.” Then the family returned to the car, said their thank yous, waved goodbye and drove away.

After the family was in the distance, the granddaughter looked up at her grandfather and asked, “Grandpa, how come when the first man came into our town you told him it was a terrible place to live and when the family came into town you told them it was a wonderful place to live?” The grandfather lovingly looked down at his granddaughter’s wondering blue eyes and said, “No matter where you move, you take your own attitude with you and that’s what makes it terrible or wonderful.”

From Stories for the Heart, Multnomah Books

Today’s story has been shared from the folloiwng website: https://www.tonycooke.org/stories-and-illustrations/in_your_town/

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Taking Personal Responsibility for Your Happiness

If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month Theodore RooseveltPersonal Responsibility is Crucial for Happiness-Maximization

As those who have embarked on the quest for happiness know quite well, a crucial milestone on the path involves taking personal responsibility. Taking personal responsibility means not blaming others for your unhappiness. It means figuring out ways in which you can be happy despite others’ (negative) behaviors and despite the external circumstances. A person who has taken personal responsibility recognizes an all-important truth about happiness: your happiness depends much more on your attitude than it does on objective, external circumstances.

Does this mean that one can be happy no matter what the external circumstances? Can one be happy despite intense physical or psychological pain?

This is the question many of my students ask when I talk of taking personal responsibility for happiness.

Theoretically, it is possible to be happy no matter what the external circumstance. How? Because one’s emotional state is a function of how one interprets events, rather than what actually happened, as reflected in Milton’s famous saying, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” Findings from cognitive theories of affect support Milton’s saying. Generally speaking, our happiness–in fact, any emotional state, including a negative one–is generated by interpretations of events, as I elaborated in another post. When we interpret our negative boss as an obstacle, for example, we feel angry and frustrated; if, in contrast, we view our boss as “exactly what we need in order to become a better person,” we experience a sense of calmness, perhaps even gratitude.

Of course, most of us do not believe that we can be happy no matter what the external circumstance. When confronted with the idea that happiness is ultimately in the mind, many of us immediately entertain extreme examples that falsify the theory: could we be happy even if we break a bone or lose our job?

To me, those are the wrong questions to ask. The right question to ask is whether we can be happy given the types of negative events that routinely occur in our lives. In other words, rather than ask yourself if you can be happy even in extremely negative circumstances, ask yourself whether you can be happy in the more moderate circumstances in which you find yourself on a day-to-day basis. Can you, for example, entertain the possibility of being happy despite the fact that it’s raining outside? Can you be happy if a meeting with your client did not go as well as you would have liked?

Why is asking yourself whether you can be happy in extremely (vs. moderately) negative circumstances the wrong question? Because, by asking such a question, you undermine the confidence you need to develop the ability to be happy under all circumstances. Just as a child cannot imagine being as physically strong as an adult, those of us who haven’t developed the ability to interpret moderately negative events in a happiness-enhancing fashion cannot imagine being happy in extremely negative circumstances.

It is useful to think of the ability to control your emotional responses to events as a muscle; just as your biceps become stronger only when you exercise them using the appropriate weights–weights that are neither too light nor too heavy–, your ability to control your emotional response to events gains strength only when you take on challenges that are commensurate with your current ability. If you are currently someone who lets relatively minor events–like an encounter with a rude waitress–spoil your mood, how can you expect to maintain your happiness when a more extreme event–like a week long visit from a unpleasant relative–unfolds?

The point is: just because you currently lack the ability to maintain emotional positivity in the face of extremely negative events doesn’t mean that the theory–that the key to your happiness ultimately lies in your hands–is false. Rather, what it means is that you don’t, at present, possess sufficient control over your mind to feel happy regardless of the circumstances. You may ultimately desire to be like Gandhi or Jesus–who were remarkable in their ability to maintain good cheer even in the face of extreme adversity–but you can’t get there by biting off more than you can chew right now.

This brings me to an interesting irony about taking personal responsibility. Seeking mental control, it might appear at first blush, is similar to seeking control over others or over the circumstances. Quite the contrary! If anything, your ability to control your own mind is diminished by seeking to control others and the circumstances. Indeed, a critical element in developing mental control is a willingness to accept whatever outcomes you are dealt. If you cannot fully accept your outcomes–including, for example, the presence of a toxic boss, or poor health–you will not be able to interpret these outcomes in a positive light, and hence, you cannot be happy.

So, taking personal responsibility for your happiness involves, ultimately, adopting a “surrender mindset”–which refers to the willingness to fully and unquestioningly accept the outcomes you are dealt in life.

But how does one develop the surrender mindset?

Before answering this question, let me briefly discuss a commonly held misconception about the surrender mindset. Surrendering isn’t the same as capitulating. In other words, a person with a surrender mindset is not a weak, rudderless individual who has “checked out” from this world; rather, he is someone who, like the rest of us, has desires and goals and pursues them. However, whereas the rest of us cling to our desires with feverish desperation, a person with the surrender mindset does not. Thus, a person with the surrender mindset may dream of breaking the world record in the 100-meter dash, but if he were to discover a physical condition that prevents him from achieving this dream, he will be able to discard his dream, and move on to other goals without hesitation.

In other words, a person with the surrender mindset is like the rest of us in many ways, but only until the moment the outcomes unfold. Whereas the rest of us ruminate and moan when our favored outcomes don’t unfold, the person with a surrender mindset is able to move on, emotionally unscathed.

Let me now return to the question I had raised earlier: How does one develop the surrender mindset?

The most effective way to develop the mindset is one that those with a scientific orientation will likely find unappealing: it involves faith in a larger intelligence or force. Specifically, those who believe that there is force larger than oneself, and that this force is benign, will find it easier to surrender. The reason for this is straightforward: if you believe that the Universe is shaped by a force more powerful than you, and that this force has your best interests at heart, then you will find it much easier to make peace with the outcomes you are dealt. Even if you are unable to see how an outcome is beneficial for you in the moment, you will at least be willing to look for ways in which it opens new doors and opportunities. In contrast, if you are convinced that the outcome you have been dealt is bad for you, you are more likely to ruminate about the past than to move forward.

Ultimately then, surrendering has to do with trust. Just as trusting the people with whom you interact on a day-to-day basis is indispensable for being happy, so it seems that trusting that the Universe is taking care of you is crucial for being happy too.

This may be one reason why findings repeatedly show that religious people are, on average, significantly happier. Developing the surrender mindset, however, doesn’t mean you need to become religious. One can entertain the belief in a benign (rather than malign or indifferent) Universe without subscribing to any other religious tenet.

So, the logical thing to do, if you want to take personal responsibility for your own happiness, is to do something that might sound illogical: to have faith and adopt the surrender mindset.

Isn’t that wonderful?

Today’s article was written by Raj Raghunathan, Ph.D. and is shared from the following website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sapient-nature/201112/taking-personal-responsibility-your-happiness

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10 Gratitude Principles to Live By

When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears Tony Robbins

About five years ago now, my financial security was threatened by circumstances in my life over which I had absolutely no control.

As a single parent, I had spent years scrimping and saving and just getting by. While I had managed to build a small financial cushion, the idea of dipping into my savings to get by each month terrified me. When I allowed myself to turn towards the dark alley of fear that seemed ever present, I’d feel overwhelmed worrying about what might happen when the cushion was gone.

As the months went by and my savings diminished, little mantras that revolved around gratitude began popping into my head. I recorded these gratitude principles in the front cover of my 2007 journal. I am not quite sure where these principles came from as I had definitely grown up in a family that emphasized and fretted over the half-empty glass. I had never learned how to foster a positive attitude, much less how to express gratitude. Yet from somewhere came the guidance to foster gratitude instead of fear.

As I look back on that year, I am amazed by the amount of peace that I felt in spite of my difficult circumstances. It was a year that taught me so much about trusting my path; about the absolute futility of worry; and about the amazing power of gratitude.

The “Gratitude Principles” that kept me afloat during that difficult year were as follows:

1. Gratitude is awareness that, as things come to you, they are exactly what you need – be it people, circumstance, or challenges.

2. Worry is the opposite of gratitude; it is the failure to understand that you have been and will continue to be provided for each day.

3. Whenever fear over your future encroaches, stop to observe a tree. Consider how the tree continues to stand tall and grow throughout the various cycles and seasons of its life span.

4. Worry is an action. Gratitude is an action. Both are optional. By choosing gratitude you drive out the space and time for worry.

5. It isn’t hard to do; gratitude is simply noticing the good stuff in your life.

6. What you pay attention to, or notice, tends to expand and grow.

7. Each day brings a multitude of opportunities to feel gratitude and appreciation.

8. When you neglect the action of appreciating, you limit your potential for joy and contentment in the present moment.

9. Worry does not prevent bad things from happening; it only prevents you from accessing joy in this moment.

10. The present moment is the only place where joy and contentment can exist.

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How To Use The Power of Gratitude; An Easy Way To Feel Happier Everyday

Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy Fred DeWitt Van Amburgh

In my book Nothing Changes Until You Do, I tell the story of a simple but powerful conversation I had with a cabdriver a few years back that had a profound impact on me. I was in Houston, Texas, on my way back to the airport to fly home after speaking at a conference. The driver and I began talking. He had a beautiful accent. Based on how he looked and sounded, I assumed he was from somewhere in Africa, but I couldn’t tell exactly where. It didn’t come up in what we were talking about, so I didn’t ask.

Right before we got to the airport, however, there was a pause in our conversation, so I inquired, “By the way, where are you from originally?”

“I’m from Ethiopia,” he said. He then proudly stated, “I’ve been here in the U.S. for twenty years. I’m an American citizen now; so are both of my boys and my wife.”

I’m not exactly sure what prompted me, but I then asked him, “What’s your perspective on American culture, given that you didn’t grow up here?”

At first he didn’t say anything, and I thought maybe I had offended him. We were just arriving at the airport. He pulled up to the curb, put the cab in park, turned around, and looked me right in the eye.

“Can I be honest with you?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said.
“Well,” he said, “I think most people in this culture act like spoiled brats.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“Look, I’m from Ethiopia,” he said. “Every day here is a good day.”

I was taken aback by the simplicity, wisdom, and power of his statement. And, I was grateful for the reminder.

Gratitude is a Practice, Not A Concept
I’ve been speaking and writing about gratitude for many years, and I’m still amazed at how challenging it can be to focus on what I’m grateful for at times. We live in a culture that has an obsession with negativity, and it’s easy for us to get caught up in how “bad” things are, as well as in our own personal and insatiable desire for more, thinking that what we have and how things are in our own lives is never quite good enough. However, regardless of the specific circumstances of our lives, even and especially when they’re difficult, if we stop, pay attention, and look for it, there are always so many things we can be grateful for—if we choose to be. Gratitude is a practice, not a concept. And, like any other practice, the more genuine and consistent we are with it, the more valuable and beneficial it is.

Most of us, especially those of us on a path of personal growth and discovery, know that gratitude is important. We’ve heard about it, read about it, and been taught about it for years. In the mid 1990s a wonderful book called Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach came out. Sarah was a featured guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Oprah talked about how Sarah’s suggestion to keep a daily gratitude journal—to write down five things each day that you’re grateful for—had a profound impact on her life. Oprah became a passionate advocate for the power of gratitude and since that time has continued to encourage millions of people around the world to keep their own gratitude journals.

Create A Gratitude Journal
Like so many other people, I took Oprah’s advice and started my own journal many years ago. I found it to be fun, inspiring, and empowering to look for, find, and write down things I was grateful for. When I started speaking, coaching, and writing, much of my work focused on gratitude and appreciation. The technique of the gratitude journal was something I often suggested to people. However, over time it became one of the many things that I “know” and even “teach,” but had stopped practicing consistently in my own life.

A few years back, as a New Year’s resolution, I recommitted myself to the practice of my gratitude journal. I bought a new, beautiful journal and decided I was going to start using it. It took me a little while to get back into the practice of writing in it consistently, but once I was in the swing of it, it was pretty easy. Later that year I had a few months where things were going really well in many important areas of my life. As I sat down to write in my gratitude journal one morning, I decided to look back at some of the things I’d written over the past few months.

As I turned the pages, I realized that I hadn’t missed a day of writing in over three months. I was amazed. It was less about the consistency of my writing, and more about the consistency of my excitement to do this exercise and the benefits I got from it. Things were going so well in my life, and the positive turns seemed to be directly connected to my use of the gratitude journal. I said to my wife, Michelle, “I’m not sure if things are going so well because I’m writing in my gratitude journal every day, or I’m excited to write in my gratitude journal every day because things are going so well. I bet it’s a combination of both. At some level, I don’t really care—I’m just grateful for how things are going and for my journaling practice.”

The way gratitude works is that the more we focus on feeling grateful, the more we have to feel grateful for. And while many of us have experienced this personally, recent scientific studies have concluded that gratitude can have significantly positive effects on our health, our moods, our productivity, and our relationships.

In one specific study, conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., at the University of California at Davis and Mike McCullough at the University of Miami, participants were given one of three tasks. Each week, they kept a short journal. One group was asked to write down five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week, another was asked to record five hassles from the previous week that displeased them, and the neutral group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but they weren’t told whether to focus on something positive or negative specifically.

Ten weeks later, the people in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole, plus they reported fewer health complaints, and exercised more.

Like many other things in life that we know are good for us (exercise, eating healthy, sleeping enough, drinking lots of water, telling the truth, and so on), it’s not the knowledge that will benefit us; it’s the practice. The amazing thing about gratitude is that there’s no “right” way to practice being grateful. Whether you choose to keep a journal, thank the people around you, use positive affirmations, ask other people what they’re grateful for (one of my favorites), focus on gratitude in your quiet time of prayer or meditation, or simply remind yourself to slow down and breathe—taking time to focus on what we’re grateful for is one of the easiest and most effective ways to empower ourselves, calm ourselves down, and remember what matters most in life.

Today’s article was written by Mike Robbins and is shared from the following website: https://www.healyourlife.com/how-to-use-the-power-of-gratitude

 

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