“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow”
— Melody Beattie
What is gratitude? One way to define gratitude is “a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation.” More specifically, Webster’s Dictionary defines gratitude as a “warm and friendly feeling toward a benefactor.”
“O.K.,” I hear you saying, “but what does gratitude have to do with stress?” Well, our thoughts happen to be a major trigger of our natural stress response (fight or flight reaction). When left unchecked, our thoughts often contribute to stress as a result of our being preoccupied by suffering over the past (replaying, regretting, or stewing in anger) or over the future (worrying, planning, fantasizing). However, when your thoughts are, instead, directed towards the gratitude that you are experiencing in your life, they are more likely to be serving your well-being rather than contributing to ongoing physical and/or emotional wear and tear. Simply put, practicing gratitude can be a process that has a similar effect on your stress as affirmative thinking or reframing your thoughts. For this reason, bringing awareness explicitly each day to the gratitude that you have for people, things, and experiences in your life can have a stress-reducing effect and ultimately improve your peace-of-mind and well-being (both physically and emotionally).
Greg Krech, in his book entitled, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection, suggests that “To live a life of gratitude is to open our eyes to the countless ways in which we are supported by the world around us. Such a life provides less space for our suffering because our attention is more balanced.”
Try out this simple practice of gratitude for yourself:
Each day write down, or share with another person, three things for which you are grateful.
“My advice to you is not to inquire why or with whither,
but just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate.”
— Thornton Wilder