The colonists truly had a reason to be grateful. Tossed onto an unknown and at times hostile land, they only required the most basic and fundamental in life – survival. The story goes their prayers, hard work, and overall positive mindset paid off with a bountiful November harvest. Giving thanks was in order. Since then, at least one time a year on Thanksgiving, people remember to count their blessings.
‘When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.’ – Johnson Oatman Jr., 1897
However, gratitude is not something to be pinned on a calendar. Any time is a good time to feel and express gratitude, whether it’s for a tangible or intangible outcoming in your life. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to admit to and acknowledge a good thing and almost impossible to be openly thankful for it. That would mean people need to recognize that at least part of that goodness lies outside themselves.
Given the psychological, emotional, and health benefits of gratitude, how do we cultivate this generous state of mind? Research has been conducted to register the effects of gratitude in work-related or personal relationships as opposed to nurturing feelings of indebtedness or focusing on aggravation.
Studies have found that gratitude helps people improve their health, deal with hardships, cope with emotional stress, relish life’s experiences, connect with others, and better reach their goals.
If the Only Prayer Was Giving Thanks, That Would Be Enough
The Three Benefits That Add Up from Counting Your Blessings
Improving Physical and Mental Health
‘Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.’ – A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
First, people who recognize breathing and living as worth giving thanks are also more likely to attend regular medical check-ups, exercise more, meditate and take care of their overall health.
Secondly, the body responds to an improved outlook on life. The mood and pleasure neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, epinephrine, dopamine, and oxytocin balance nicely.
On a psychological level, toxic emotions such as frustration and resentment make room for increased empathy and a kinder behavior towards your fellow men.
Striking up New Relationships
‘Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.’ – Marcel Proust
You wouldn’t bond easily with a person who constantly displays a cold demeanor, would you? A 2015 study published in Emotion found that giving thanks to a stranger can be conducive to high-quality social bonding. Attempts to strike up a more meaningful relationship come as natural.
A neighbor might hold the elevator door for you. Or a co-worker could fill you in on the latest meeting that you missed because you were deep in conversation to that ‘actually very nice’ neighbor. Acknowledging the small gestures of kindness all around you is the first step. The second one is managing to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness that endures obstacles and doesn’t crumble at the first sign of hardship.
Improving Old Relationships
We inexplicably forget to be grateful for love. In time, it becomes one more thing taken for granted, much like the succession of seasons and flowers blooming in spring. However, giving thanks to our life partner is one of the pillars of a lasting relationship. And you wouldn’t want it eroded over time.
Once you trust the other enough to share a good thought and an appreciation for their efforts, you will also feel more comfortable venting any negative emotions you might have in store.
Expressing gratitude should be given the same regard at the workplace. Managers want their staff to feel motivated and encouraged towards innovation and creative work. In that case, they should remember to throw in a warm-hearted ‘thank you’ along with that salary raise. Employees will then know their work is appreciated. Along with another magic word – ‘please’, giving thanks can do wonders for someone’s sense of worth and general efficacy.
‘When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile’. In positive psychology research, there’s no limit to the benefits of giving thanks. For life, for the air you breathe, for the person next to you who shares the same air.
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