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Natural Awakenings Lehigh Valley

Why Gratitude Is Good

Nov 02, 2023 03:47PM ● By Dr. Rodger

Need some motivation for practicing gratitude this Thanksgiving? Robert Emmons, the world's leading scientific expert on gratitude, reveals why gratitude is good for our bodies, our minds, and our relationships. 

With Thanksgiving approaching, we’ll all soon be taking time to acknowledge what we’re grateful for. It’s a nice gesture, of course, but why do we do it? What good is gratitude?

People systematically cultivate gratitude, usually by keeping a “gratitude journal” in which they regularly record the things for which they’re grateful. Gratitude journals and other gratitude practices often seem simple and basic; in studies, people who kept gratitude journals for just three weeks their results have been found to be overwhelming.  Studies done on more than one thousand people, from ages eight to 80, found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits. The social benefits are especially significant here because, after all, gratitude is a social emotion. It is seen as a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people. 

This cuts to the very heart of the definition of gratitude, which has two components. First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our lives.

The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride. We can appreciate positive traits in ourselves, but I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others. We acknowledge that other people or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset, gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve goodness in our lives.

Gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it; we’re less likely to take it for granted.

In effect, I think gratitude allows us to participate more in life. We notice the positives more, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life. Instead of adapting to goodness, we celebrate goodness. We spend so much time watching things, movies, computer screens, and sports, but with gratitude, we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone…

Dr. Rodger