Gratitude, a first step towards happiness

Written by Scott U., Edited by Lori P.

Being grateful may seem simple to some of us, but to others it can seem like a chore.  We might go an entire day, or week, or maybe even a month or more, focusing on all that’s “wrong” and forget to take stock of what’s “right.”

The idea of being and feeling grateful is something for the long run.  According to an article in a special mindfulness issue of Time Magazine, gratefulness can make you happier and healthier, help you have better relationships and be nicer, and in general, just make the world a better place.

And, there’s plenty of evidence supporting this. Just listen to the science behind gratefulness…

It has been shown that writing down one thing you are grateful for every day for three weeks can result in becoming 25% happier for six months.

Writing a thank you letter to someone, who has helped you, or made a difference in your life, can decrease depression for up to one month.

Being intentional with your gratefulness will help you feel more energetic and healthier. Gratitude has been linked to lower blood pressure, a stronger heart and lower stress hormone levels.

Experts believe the link between improved health and gratefulness is that grateful people, through reduced stress, avoid smoking and alcohol, exercise 33 percent more and sleep a ½ hour more each night.

Additionally, when you are grateful, your outlook changes and you are able to pick out the positives in situations. This leads to being more resilient to the ups and downs in life and in turn being able to keep a more even outlook on life.

Of course, gratefulness doesn’t always come automatically. You often have to work at it, particularly during stressful times.

Recently, my father needed a pacemaker and then had congestive heart failure all about the same time. I took some time to be with him and my family  as we all tried to help him through this difficult time.

Thankfully, my father now has his health back. But during this time I found myself slowly moving into a bad place with my attitude. I don’t mean I really hated life,  but I wasn’t focusing on the positives and needed to get back on track.  Having recognized this shift, I am now starting from day one  on my journey towards gratefulness. I know the trip will be a little faster, since I have traveled the road before.

I’ve recognized that being grateful means finding the best in every situation, looking for the good in life, and focusing on what you can control. There is no trickery or voodoo magic with being grateful, it is just a changing of your attitude toward life. There is no shortcut to take, but the  process is easy and the results are a positive attitude and a happy life.

I believe this happiness comes from being able to find a silver lining in any situation when others can’t see anything but the cloud. I start with the simple sight of the sun in the morning for something to be thankful for. And now of course, being able to speak with my father is a huge thing that I will not overlook.

I’ve found that all it takes is the willingness to give the process a chance. It’s something you can do in as little as a few minutes each day.

Will you give gratefulness a try today?

Please check back for my next installment, which will explain how to write a gratitude journal, and also share my personal experience with writing my own journal.

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