gratitude practices

Of course, we’re in the season of giving thanks. We’ve even got a holiday named after it. But embracing gratitude is more than just being grateful for all the pie we’re going to stuff in our gob this season.

All the world's major religions speak to the value of gratitude, and science agrees.

Psychologists Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough conducted research where they asked participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.

One group wrote about things for which they were grateful. Group two wrote about daily irritations and annoyances, and the third group wrote about events that had affected them, with no emphasis on the positive or negative. After ten weeks, the gratitude expressers were more optimistic and felt better about their lives, exercised more, and had fewer visits to the doctor than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

And while correlation is not necessarily causation, this study bears out the premise that gratitude can help make one healthier and happier.

Gratitude in Practice

Want to be healthier and happier? Here are a few ways to exercise your gratitude muscle.

Write thank-you notes. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you note or email, expressing your appreciation of that person's gift, thoughtfulness, service, or impact on your life. Set a goal each month of sending a few each month, both to your personal circles as well as your business colleagues.

Keep a gratitude journal. Get into the habit of writing down people and things for which you are grateful. You’ll be surprised how much this little exercise can impact your outlook.

Count your blessings. Incorporate the exercise of going through the day's events in your head and noting all that happened for which you are thankful. This is a perfect activity to incorporate as you lie in bed at night before you fall asleep.

Meditate or pray. Set aside a time each day to focus on why you should be grateful, as well as ways you can show others that you're grateful for them.