Overcoming Depression – Creating an Attitude of Gratitude Part 2

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one of them to say Thank You? William Arthur WardAs I worked to overcome my severe depression, I found I needed to turn to the Lord daily in my efforts to get better. Through that entire process, He taught me many things. He taught me me to trust in the journey and He taught me the importance of my mindset.

One day, He inspired me with a story that I then wrote down. I call the story The Counters. As I wrote the story, I knew that it was really the Lord that was providing the story to me – not my vivid imagination. When the story was written, I was profoundly affected by the message of the story. I knew the lesson of the story was meant for me.

I am currently working to turn my story into a children’s book so I won’t go into the details of the story, but suffice it to say that being a counter is not a good thing. I realized I was a counter. I counted good events in my life and bad events in my life. I felt it was unfair for the bad to outweigh the good. I took my lesson to heart. I quit being a counter.

“Counters” are so busy counting all of the negatives that they fail to see their blessings. I knew better. I had and still have an incredible amount of blessings to be thankful for. I know that life is not fair. Now, I have learned to quit expecting life to be fair and to focus on the good, positive and amazing blessings of life that the Lord has provided to me.

As you read today’s article, I hope you will take time to reflect on your blessings. What do you have to be grateful for? Then take a second and express a sincere Thank You to someone!:

3 Ways To Develop Gratitude (The Great Healer)

Such an approach, though, eventually imprisons us in the very small world of our own needs, pushing away other people, and closing down the possibility of real growth. We may seek relief in a variety of ways – from the pleasures of physical entertainment, to the call to community service, and the possibilities of peace offered by spiritual practices and religion – but we often find that these tactics don’t provide the relief that we had hoped for, leaving us feeling more apathetic and cynical than before.

How can we escape this downward spiral?

All that ails us and the world, and the cause of all cynicism and apathy, I believe, comes from the lack of one essential factor in our lives: gratitude. The greatest human spirits have recognized that gratitude is the most rewarding and transformational practices that we can undertake. Cicero, the versatile Roman philosopher, stated:

Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues, but the parent of all the others.

In a similar vein, the thirteenth-century Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, advised:

If the only prayer you said your whole life was “thank you,” that would suffice.

What exactly is gratitude, though? One definition that I discovered notes that gratitude is “an emotion that involves indebtedness toward another person,” and that this emotion arises when one receives something that meets the following criteria:

• It is valued by the recipient.
• It is costly to the benefactor.
• It is given with positive intention.
• It is given graciously, without any societal or professional obligation.

According to this definition, when these four criteria are met and we allow the emotion to arise, we experience gratitude. The problem with this definition, though, is that it makes gratitude conditional. When one of the criteria is not met – for example, when we don’t value the gift, or when we don’t believe that the gift is costly (monetarily, emotionally, or temporally) to the giver – according to this definition, we are excused from feeling gratitude.

Ethical, religious, and spiritual traditions encourage us to adopt a higher perspective on gratitude. From this point of view, gratitude is something far more profound than a momentary feeling of thanks for a specific valued gift. At its deepest potential, gratitude comes from an existential awareness that our bodies, our minds, our families and friends, the world in all its miraculous diversity, and all that we have are gifts. And that these gifts are given to us unconditionally, in love, at every moment of our lives.

This concept can be very difficult to incorporate because, as noted earlier, we tend to associate gratitude only with the receipt of a gift that we perceive to be valuable. When unwelcome events inevitably happen in our lives – disappointments, illness, conflicts – we naturally feel bitter and can easily believe that there is nothing to be thankful for. Conversely, when we get things that we think we want, we may be tempted to take all the credit, and believe that we have achieved these successes solely based on our own efforts and attributes. True gratitude, however, calls us to feel grateful not only for our successes, but also for our problems, our mistakes, and even for people who treat us unkindly. We can actually feel gratitude for our most difficult struggles, because these are seen as ultimately beneficial in our lives, even if the intention is not always immediately clear to us.

Gratitude can solve all that ails us because when we are truly grateful we immediately rise above our fear-based needs to dominate, control, or retreat in to cynicism. And when we approach people and situations with gratitude we will naturally be drawn to positive action, discovering new possibilities that we could never have imagined in the protective shell of self-isolation. These actions can take many forms, depending on the needs of the other person and the situation in the moment, but will always be beneficial for humanity.

Although gratitude is a feeling, it must be cultivated through action. The following offers several suggestions for developing gratitude:

1. Make a gratitude list: Srikumar Rao, who teaches a hugely popular class at Columbia Business School, and is author of “Are You Ready to Succeed”? recommends that we write a daily list of the things that have occurred for which we are grateful. These do not need to be major events, but can be the little occurrences that we usually ignore – the train arriving on time, good weather, a satisfying meal, a stranger’s warm smile – and the wonderful people and things in our lives that we all to often take for granted – our families, spouses, friends, jobs, homes, health, bodies.

2. Say “Thank you” to others: Stay alert for opportunities to express gratitude to others as often as you can. You will find that even when you are not feeling grateful, simply saying “thank you” will connect you to others, and will have an impact beyond the moment.

3. Develop a daily gratitude prayer: All religious and spiritual traditions stress the essential nature of gratitude, and place it as the bedrock of faith. Within many of these traditions the first prayer that a practitioner says every morning is “I am thankful for having awakened to another day.” This is a prayer of gratitude to our Creator for the very miracle of our lives.

These practices remind us that gratitude is available to us at any moment and under any circumstance, even – or especially – when we are not feeling particularly thankful. Seen from the highest perspective, gratitude is the door that opens to individual and world transformation, revealing our true nature, binding us to each other, and to the Divine.

Today’s article is shared from the following website: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-alan-lurie/gratitude-the-great-heale_b_266952.html

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You Deserve Your Love…

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and afftection. Buddha A lot has been written about Loving Yourself – also called self-esteem. More should be written. More anxiety, more depression, more sadness and more misery could be overcome just by an increase of loving ourselves.

Too many individuals talk to themselves using words and voices that they would not use on their worst enemy.

God does not want us to beat ourselves up…and loving our self is not the same as conceit.

We each are a divine gift to this world – a gift created by God and shared by him as well.

This weekend, I hope you will look into your heart – identify all of the garbage and have a soul cleaning. You deserve to have joy and you deserve to be loved! Yet, if you don’t truly love yourself, it is next to impossible to have healthy, loving relationships with others!

I hope you will give yourself a hug and a pat on the back for all of your good qualities and have patience with yourself on all of those things you need to work on.

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy today’s story!

This Uplifting Story Proves You Can CHOOSE Your Mood

This story was originally published on HerAfter.com, a website for women that shares inspiring articles on self-improvement and advice on becoming your best. You can read the original here.

A few hours after my parents told me that I had cancer, I went to the movies.

It sounds strange, but I was 17, and all I could do was keep cancer from taking over my life. That effort would start with keeping it from ruining my afternoon. I had plans. To live, in fact, and I was going to go through with them. Naivety is such a blessing when it offers such unfounded courage.

So this was my 17-year-old logic for why I had no business sitting at home and crying about cancer when the world was waiting. A bright, bold world that I had known I wanted to be part of, and in the light of new risks, I wanted it even more. You can read the full story of my diagnosis here, but for now, let us digest these strange circumstances with open eyes:

First, that the power the mind has to control our mood is unlimited. We forget this when we’re confronted with priorities, stress, time constraints. But if you can tell a clueless 17 year old that her life is in danger, and she refuses to be scared, then I’m quite certain the possibilities for you are endless.

Second, that in these little moments of clarity, when all that truly matters becomes glaringly apparent, and a basis for our most natural and self-aware intentions come to light, we should show a little gratitude. We should be grateful that we have the foresight to remember what truly matters, especially in the face of great adversity. In this story, my clarity continued through the afternoon…

Standing in the mall downtown waiting for the show, I found myself in the center of the theater complex. People bustled from one side to the other, one store to the next. It was Christmas time, and so even more busy and chaotic than usual. Reality might have well been just a portrait in motion: just in front of me, dreamily, and not quite touchable. I stood, feet planted in the marble lobby of this massive building, words and energies swirling around like water colors, moving in currents in every direction. Everyone had wishes on their lips, and wants on their lists, a concern for everyone they loved attached to their wallets. But I couldn’t make out a single thing. It wasn’t that the room spun around me, but still I became the center of it. Or maybe centered by it, the room and the world all around me in every direction.

 

This was the second truly profound moment of stillness — the first being while my parents told me the diagnosis, and I realized I could interject with “No, I’m not going to be scared.” Those little pockets of silence, the energy vibrating in pulses through your bones. The mind unattached and determined.

I know that you know the feeling. It’s waiting just at the moment when your tears take a pause. Or just after you’ve jumped into the lake, free floating just under the surface, and all stands still right before you come gasping up for air. Or right after the words “it’s over“ have left his mouth, and you’re not sure what to say, now that you’ve heard the words you were most afraid to hear…

Have you noticed that little pause? That little quiet moment that the universe gives you, like a hush across all the world. When you can see, even within the deepest pain, that the world still continues to spin around you, but you’re given a moment of total stillness…

This is what 17-year-old me was realizing, brave and hopeful. All a person can do is realize your physical presence, from head to do, and all the space around you that extends endlessly in every direction. Don’t worry about the past, don’t fret about the future. For now, just stand still, and breathe deeply, because THAT is your moment to choose.

In my moment, I’m just a girl, a girl who’s very sick, but a girl who’s right here right now, and is certain of what she’ll attempt to do. Though all this time I thought I understood everything about the world in a manageable way, but in truth all I am is a single entity. Really, I am just standing, pulsating, watching the water colors fly by, and thankfully the world is giving just a brief break in the chaos to help me look outward… Oh what a gift it truly is.

These still moments are just proof life’s endless love for us. A quiet little pocket in which we’re given the power to choose any one direction: fear, anger, hope, bravery, forgiveness, love. These little moments that we experience all alone, whether painful or joyful, are gifts that remind us the power we have to write our life’s story. And of the moment we are living in, a moment always in motion.

So much of our time and energy is absorbed with reaching for what we want to be, or fleeing from what we hope we aren’t. Whenever I’m online pinning for inspiration, I can see it. All the positive messages emblazoned on mugs and t-shirts and Instagram photos. All these words to remind us to work hard and keep focused, and how capable we are of getting to where we want to be! Oh if only it were as easy as a mug on our desk to make us a hero of our own lives!

But silence speaks the truth. It so softly whispers of our power to choose our mood, our action and our reaction. When we listen, listen listen… sometimes only because we’re begging the moment to move faster and end already, but it doesn’t… We realize this moment: Here we are. Right here right now, reading this, sharing my story with yours. And all the happy mug messages of “she believed she could and she did” don’t make any sense anymore. Because all “now” can say to us is “there she is.” And all we can say back is “okay here, right now, that is where I’ll start from…”

It’s ever a journey onward, whether facing backwards or forward. The moment is always moving. But when you get the gift of sudden stillness, or better yet if you can train yourself to stop, take a look around, and put yourself at center again, you’ll open your eyes and hearts to much more than you ever thought possible…

 

Embrace your power to choose your mood in three simple steps:

 

 

  • STOP

Take a breath in. Freeze the thoughts that are coming in — the fears, the anxieties, the worries, the excitements. Just stop and be still and let the breath be your focus.

  • LOOK AROUND

What is really happening right now? Not the fears of what you think might happen, not the worries about the future. What’s really happening? Regardless of the fight you’re in or the situation you’re trying to solve, what is really tangible here, now, with you?

  • LISTEN

What does your heart say? What feels right? What is the reaction your highest self would offer? Give your trust to the wisdom of life, and stop trying to over-plan what happens next too much. Have faith that the answers are presenting themselves even as you try to invent them, and let yourself be a channel for whatever life might have in store for you…

And, most sobering of all, please ask yourself:

What would your entire life look like if you embraced the power to CHOOSE your attitude, your mood, and your reactions, rather than let fear or doubt run your life?

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How to Have a Long and Happy Marriage

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. Mignon McLaughlin

Eighty-seven years ago, Karam and Katari Chand met in their native land of Punjab, India through an arranged marriage. They’re still together and are waiting for the Guinness Book of World records to proclaim them as officially having the world’s longest lasting marriage. Karam says “My trick is to make Katari laugh. I like to tell jokes and make her smile. Being funny is my way of being romantic.”

The couple have eight children and twenty eight grandchildren together. There is an age difference – Karam is 107, and his wife is a relatively youthful 100, but that hasn’t stopped their long and successful partnership.

One of the secrets to their long and happy marriage is that the key to success is looking after each other in every way possible.

“I have been told laughing makes you live longer… my wife is still alive so it must have worked! I love her so much and I want to spend another 80 years by her side,” Karam says.

The couple now lives in Bradford and are both looked after by one of their children.
Katari says that eating right is very important. “When I was young I used to make him a nice fresh meal every night. We are vegetarian so I brought lots of fresh vegetables and made sure he was eating healthy food.

“Health is very important and I wanted to look after him so we could grow old together. Some would say it has worked!

Karam does a word search every day to keep his mind alive. He believes that spending plenty of time together has helped their marriage last.

“We have not spent any long span apart in over 50 years. We go everywhere together – up until a few years ago we went to India every year with the family and for all family weddings we make sure we get to stay together,” he says.

The couple’s marriage has lasted nearly five years longer than that of the current Guinness World Record holders and the couple is in the process of getting confirmation from the company that they will be named as the new record holders.

Both now share their five steps to a long and successful marriage:

1. “Always be faithful: always be faithful to one another. When you get married you commit to devoting your life to that person and even when the times are tough, don’t believe that the grass is greener…because it isn’t.”

2. “Look after each other as best you can: if you want to grow old with your partner you have to make sure you always look after each other in every shape and form. Whether it is making a meal, holding your partners hand when crossing the road or being a shoulder to cry on when something goes wrong.”

3. “Be tolerant of each other: everyone has bad habits or annoying traits. Whether it is leaving a towel on the floor or listening to the radio too loudly, you have to tolerate each other and realize that no one is perfect.”

4. “Listen to each other: the most important thing in a relationship is to listen. People don’t listen anymore because they are too busy with work and TV. Listen to your loved ones’ problems and concerns every day, because then you can help them overcome them and be happier. Also, it brings you closer together because you are the first port of call for each other when there is an issue in your life.”

5. “Follow social and religious values. Respect, care, cherish, love and value your partner – always treat them how you would want to be treated yourself.”

Today’s article was written by Greg Goodsell and is shared from the following website: http://www.catholic.org/news/hf/family/story.php?id=48336

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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.
b1. The Role of Gratitude in The Development of Social Support, Stress, and Depression: Two Longitudinal Studies
b2. Why Gratitude Enhances Well-Being: What We Know, What We Need to Know
c1. 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
c2. 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.
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.
d1. Coping Style as a Psychological Resource of Grateful People
d2. Positive Responses to Benefit and Harm: Bringing Forgiveness and Gratitude into Cognitive Psychotherapy
d3. Gratitude in Intermediate Affective Terrain: Links of Grateful Moods to Individual Differences and Daily Emotional Experience
e1. Is Gratitude an Alternative to Materialism?
e2. The Grateful Disposition: A Conceptual and Empirical Topography
f1. C. Peterson, L. Bossio. “Optimism and Physical Wellbeing.” Optimism & Pessimism: Implications for Theory, Research, and Practice. Ed. E. Chang. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2001: 127-145.
f2. Positive Emotions in Early Life and Longevity: Findings From The Nun Study
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.
g1. Kashdan, T. B., & Breen, W. E. (2007). MATERIALISM AND DIMINISHED WELL-BEING: EXPERIENTIAL AVOIDANCE AS A MEDIATING MECHANISM. Journal Of Social & Clinical Psychology, 26(5), 521-539.
g2. Belk , R. W. ( 1985 ). Materialism: Trait aspects of living in the material world . Journal of Consumer Research, 12, 265 – 280
g3. Sheldon , K. M. , & Kasser , T. ( 1995 ). Coherence and congruence: Two aspects of personality integration . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 531 543 .
h1. Emmons RA, Crumpler CA. Gratitude as human strength: Appraising the evidence. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. 2000;19:849–857.
i1. Spinney, L. (2012). All about ME. New Scientist, 214(2862), 44-47.
j1. Gratitude Influences Sleep Through the Mechanism of Pre-Sleep Cognitions
k1. Benight C, Bandura A. Social cognitive theory of posttraumatic recovery: The role of perceived self efficacy. Behav Res Ther. 2004; 42(10): 1129–1148 [serial online].
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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The Blessing of Being Vulnerable

Don’t keep your heart safe... be vulnerable John Mayer

Be sure to keep yourself vulnerable…

Make sure you expose yourself emotionally…

Place yourself in situations in which you can make sure that you can be hurt…

Do people tell you these things often? Of course not! You’ve probably never had those conversations because we live in a world of minimizing hurt, damage, and exposure.

I believe that our ability to expose our hearts is an important component of being emotionally and spiritually healthy. Let me tell you why.

First, let’s do a test of opposites. I will list a word and you fill in the blank with the opposite:

  • Black     __________
  • Dark      __________
  • Day        __________
  • Love      __________

What did you fill in for the opposite of Love? Did you use the word hate? Hate is not the right answer…the right answer is apathy.

There was a time in my life when I would have said that hate was the opposite of love too. But that was before I personally witnessed my two adopted children protect themselves at the cost of everything I believe to be most important.

My youngest two children were adopted from Russia when they were 4 and 9 years old. They were not orphans – they had been removed from their birth family due to neglect and abandonment. As you might imagine, they have experienced some difficulties in their lives.

They, of course, are not the only ones who have ever been through difficult life circumstances. However, their choices and behaviors strongly reflect what they experienced in those years prior to our adoption of them.

Our adopted children spent more time in our home with our love and influence than they spent in their birth country of Russia. However, I can assure you that the influence of those initial years has heavily outweighed the influence we have been able to have. As family and friends have watched our family struggle to help our adoptive children the frequent suggestion has been that we just need to give them more love.

I was once blessed with the experience of re-visiting heaven. I saw there the preparations that were being made for each of us to come to earth. I also saw that even there where our perfect Father in Heaven reigns and where His perfect love infuses everything present there – that God and His perfect plan for this earth was rejected by a large number of his spirit children. So even where perfect love dwells – love was not enough.

My adopted children have found that guarding themselves against hurt, rejection and vulnerability is the easiest way to make sure they never are hurt, rejected or vulnerable again. What that means is that they shut out family, loving relationships, and even passions and interests they might have.

Imagine what your life would be life if you made sure, at all costs, that you were not vulnerable. There would be no truly loving relationships – only manipulative ones. You couldn’t have any goals because you might fail in reaching those goals. Excitement and passion would be taboo because those emotions would make you too open to failure or disappointment.

I am not suggesting that we deliberately set ourselves up to be hurt but I understand now how wonderful and amazing it is to be vulnerable!

By being vulnerable I can love (even when I might get hurt), I can get excited about goals and future events that I want to happen in my life and I can embrace the talents and passions that I have – even when it might mean I will experience failure and disappointment. I can imagine and what I imagine can become a reality – all because I am willing to expose myself to whatever outcome may result.

Everything that I hold dear is a result of my willingness to allow myself to be accessible, susceptible and vulnerable – my marriage, my family, my friends and everything that I am passionate about!

So while I would never suggest that we intentionally seek hurt and pain – I hope you will join me in recognizing what a gift having an open heart and being vulnerable is!

 

 

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