I drove past one of those signs they put outside churches yesterday. It simply said ‘What are you grateful for?’. And it got me to thinking not only about what I am grateful for, but how I can actively create even more gratitude in my life.
Because the benefits to health and happiness of gratitude are huge.
As Robert Emmons PhD puts it, gratitude heals, energises and transforms lives. And he has done the research to prove it. With a list of studies as long as my arm, Emmons has demonstrated how gratitude can improve sleep, help people be more optimistic about their lives, get people exercising more, encourage acts of kindness and feelings of being connected. And how’s this… he even showed that people who keep gratitude lists were more likely to be closer to reaching their goals. Of course, philosophers’ have known this for thousands of years, it’s just that science is catching up.
But what is most important to understand is that gratitude is a choice. A choice we can make minute to minute. There’s a guy for instance who parks his LandCruiser across from our office driveway. And sometimes it really gets in the way when I reverse. And then there are other times he parks it elsewhere in the street, for which I am grateful. But I could also choose to be grateful when it is in the way that he hasn’t actually parked it across the drive and blocked me completely. In other words I can wait for life to give me something to be grateful for (and I might be waiting a long time), or I can choose to be grateful for what I have right now.
Now that’s relatively easy on a good day. But even when life is more challenging, I can choose to be grateful I woke up this morning breathing.
Gratitude is on my list of essential life skills. The best bit is the more we do it, the more we get hooked on doing it.
So what are you grateful for?