Research along with common sense recommends that one aspect of the Thanksgiving season can actually help in lifting the spirits, and it’s built right into the holiday of expressing gratitude
The word gratitude comes from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending upon the context). In some ways gratitude surrounds all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what is received by an individual, whether tangible or intangible. People appreciate the goodness in their lives with gratitude. In the process, people usually identify that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside them. As a result, gratitude also helps people in connecting to something larger than themselves as individuals who can be to other people, nature, or a higher power.
In positive psychology study, gratitude is strongly and consistently related with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people in feeling more positive emotions, cherishing good experiences, improving health, dealing with adversity, and building strong relationships.
Feeling and expressing gratitude is done by people in multiple ways. They can apply it to the past i.e. by retrieving positive memories and being thankful for the component of childhood or past blessings, the present i.e. by not taking good fortune for granted as it coming, and the future i.e. a hopeful and optimistic attitude to be maintained. Besides the inherent or current level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a quality that individuals can successfully prepare further.
Research on gratitude
Two psychologists have done much of the study on gratitude. In one study, they asked all candidates to write a few sentences each week, focusing on specific topics.
One of the group wrote about things they were thankful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had not pleased them and the third wrote about events that had an effect on them with no emphasis on them being positive or negative. After a period of 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were feeling more optimistic and felt good about their lives. Astonishingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of exasperation.
Another researcher in this field had tested the impact of different positive psychology interventions on around 400 people, each in comparison with a control assignment of writing about early memories. In their week’s assignment they were asked to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly appreciated for their kindness, candidates immediately manifested a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was huge than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a period of a month.
Of course, researches such as this one cannot prove cause and effect. But most of the studies published on this topic are in support of an association between gratitude and well-being of an individual.
How gratitude can improve relationships have been researched in other studies. For example, a study of couples found that individuals who are taking time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the partner but also felt more comfortable expressing their concerns about their relationship.
Managers who make sure to say “thank you” to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder. Researchers divided university fund-raisers into two groups. One group made phone calls to request alumni donations in the same way they always had. The second group was assigned to work on a different day who received a pep talk from the director of annual giving, who told the fund-raisers that were grateful for their efforts. During the coming week, the university employees who heard the message of gratitude made 50% more fund-raising calls than those who did not.
There are some remarkable exceptions to the usually positive results in research on gratitude. A study found that middle-aged divorced women who kept gratitude journals were satisfied no more with their lives than those who did not. Another study found that children and adolescents who wrote and delivered a thank-you letter themselves to someone who made a variation in their lives may have made the other person happier but their own well-being was not improved. This finding recommends that gratitude is an realization associated with emotional maturity.
Ways to foster gratitude
Gratitude is a way for people to be grateful for what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them more happy, or thinking they are unsatisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people in focusing on what they have instead of what they are lacking. And, although it may feel forced at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.
Here are some ways to foster gratitude on a regular basis.
Writing thank-you note. Making yourself happier and nurturing the relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter and expressing the enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on life. Send it, or to be better, deliver and read it in person if possible. A habit of sending should be made for at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, one should be written to yourself.
Thank someone mentally. If there is no time to write it may help just to think about someone who has done something nice, and mentally thank that someone.
Keep a gratitude journal. A habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts received each day should be made
Counting the blessings. Pick a time in every week to sit down and write about the blessings and reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number such as two to five things which will be identified each week. Be specific and think about the sensations being felt when something good happened as you write.
Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to foster their gratitude.
Meditation. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the current moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a particular word or phrase such as “peace”, it is also possible to base on what to be grateful for.