Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." - Oprah Winfrey
I remember watching the Oprah episode in 1996 where she introduced Simple Abundance and the idea of journaling about gratitude daily. I was a young mother and the ideas in Simple Abundance resonated with me deeply. I started with great enthusiasm but of course, life with two young boys and another on the way, quickly made the “gratitude habit” hard to practice. Fortunately the sentiment and perspective of gratitude has never left me and while I don’t always write it down, I do spend time every day focused on the things I am most grateful for.
To be sure it’s not the same things every day. That is the beauty of seeking your gratitude. Some days we feel overwhelmed with responsibilities. We see all the problems in the world and too few solutions. We have friends and loved ones who are struggling. It is on those challenging days that gratitude might simply come from a good cup of coffee or a warm bath. Being grateful for the simple things can help us from concentrating on the things we don’t have and can’t control.
At grand to GREAT, our fourth daily action is GIVE.
GIVE—thanks, praise, gratitude, peace. Meditate or pray, say it out loud or write a note. Doesn’t matter how, just do it every day.
While there is no question that an “attitude of gratitude” will help you live your best life, there is now scientific proof that it will actually make you healthier!
“Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” said Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis. “It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep.” One recent study from the University of California San Diego’s School of Medicine found that people who were more grateful actually had better heart health, specifically less inflammation and healthier heart rhythms. Research shows that when we think about what we appreciate, the parasympathetic or calming part of the nervous system is triggered and that can have protective benefits on the body, including decreasing cortisol levels and perhaps increasing oxytocin, the bonding hormone involved in relationships that make us feel so good.¹
Even more importantly, gratitude helps you become “UNAGEABLE”. George Vaillant, in his book, Aging Well which is based on the Harvard Study of Adult Development, concludes that “[those] who have aged most successfully are those who worry less about cholesterol and waistlines and more about gratitude…”²
“Some people may not be grateful by nature but it is a habit you can get accustomed to,” said Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a psychiatrist and author of “Winter Blues.” “One very good way is being aware of comparing up. It’s a formula for unhappiness because you can always find a person who is more advantaged than you are.” Come winter, and endless days of rain I have to work harder and the coffee and bath tub are frequently repeated. I will admit, during the summers in Oregon it is simply easier for me to be grateful.
‘Gratitude is a simple and effective practice and the benefits are real and attainable. Many of us know this in our hearts, but now it's proven by modern science. Gratitude creates a healthier, happier and more fulfilling state of being for anyone who takes a few moments to feel and reflect on it.’
What can you find today to be grateful for?
² AGING WELL: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development, George E. Valliant, 2002
Sara Childre, president of the Institute of HeartMath