The Unique Power of Gratitude

by Jo-Ann Downey

in Wellness

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There is a lot more to gratitude than meets the eye.  Studies show that people who have an attitude of gratitude have higher levels of well-being (physical and emotional), are happier, less stressed, more satisfied with their lives, have more effective coping skills, grow from difficult experiences, experience more successful outcomes, and even sleep better.  Gratitude seems to be a uniquely powerful trait.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” Cicero (106 BC- 43 BC)

Definition of Gratitude

Gratitude is the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful for something that you perceive to be beneficial to you; gratitude does not include feelings of entitlement, indebtedness or something you experience because you earned it.

The feeling of gratitude is pure, still, peaceful and always available to you.  For example, you can drive down the road and choose to feel grateful for the mountains, the trees, and the people who built the road you are driving on. Gratitude can be a path to happiness, although gratitude is not happiness.

Authentic Gratitude

Have you ever experience something that you judged to be bad for you only to later find out that it was a blessing? What if you choose to live in complete acceptance and gratitude for everything in your life?  You may be in difficult situation, however, are you willing to choose to be grateful for the opportunity to handle the situation with grace, ease, and compassion for yourself and others?  Are you willing to be grateful for the opportunity to do better than you did the last time you were in a difficult situation?

Authentic gratitude is independent of circumstances or situations.  Are you willing to be in acceptance and gratitude when the road does not appear to be smooth, or perfect? For more information about acceptance, see “Acceptance and Patience”. 

Elements of Gratitude & the Secret Sauce

Gratitude is intentional and has elements of acceptance, being present in the moment, and realizing that you have choices.  The secret sauce to feeling gratitude is to consciously, and specifically, acknowledge the source of your gratitude.  It is thinking “I am grateful for the people that labored to build this road” versus “I am glad this road is here.”  You can be thankful for specific people, for people that you don’t know, for mother nature, or for what you believe is the source of your gratitude.

Giving versus Receiving Gratitude

A common way to look at gratitude is on the receiving side; the other side is the giving side.  One of the easiest ways to give gratitude is to say a heartfelt “thank you” to others in both personal and professional situations.  When you are grateful, you are compassionate, positive, and helpful… and more likely to experience more positive outcomes.

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was “thank you,” that would suffice.” Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)

A great way to give gratitude is to volunteer which is an act of being grateful for other human beings and, coincidentally, also has wellness effects.  For more information see “The Volunteer Wellness Effect”.

“There are two kinds of gratitude: The sudden kind we feel for what we receive, and the larger kind we feel for what we give.”  Edward Arlington Robinson (1869-1935)

Very Smart Girls intentionally choose to be grateful in all situations.

photo credit: pfly

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