Gratitude the Wonder Drug
5 Reasons I think Gratitude is the Wonder Drug
There was a time in my life when I was drowning in a sea of anger, bitterness and depression. I thought I had lost everything. Even prior to this season of slowly sinking I was ever the critic, often the cynic, and always the serial complainer. In my eyes, pretty much everything could do with improvement.
Then along came gratitude…
My Mental Picture of Gratitude Looked Something Like This:
Gratitude was something I’d dismissed as belonging to the world of those who were overly optimistic, or happily deluded morons, or those not willing to face the harsh realities of life. Even the word conjured up for me surface smiles, flowers, sunshine – silly girly stuff that made me want to throw up.
These days my picture of gratitude is very different. There isn’t much sugary about it – it is a mental discipline with wonderful benefits in all areas of life.
The six simple words “You find what you look for.” have turned my life upside down.
Gratitude changed my perspective and taught me how to search for better things.
The effects of this easy practice surprised me so much that I began researching gratitude. I was delighted to find that everything I discovered confirmed and explained my own very positive experiences.
5 Reasons Gratitude is a Wonder Drug
Gratitude Makes Us Happier
In almost everything we do happiness is what we are seeking. Research shows that those who regularly practice being grateful can raise their day-to-day level of happiness they are experiencing by around 24%. (Prof Robert Emmons).
Raised levels of happiness is one of the first things people comment on when they begin to practice gratitude.
Even practicing gratitude for as little as a month can improve happiness levels for the next six months.
Gratitude reduces depression
My extended depression was fuelled by my obsession with my own pain, shortcomings, and failures. When I began to look at all the good things in my life and take time to thank others for them my depression just disappeared naturally. I am pretty sure this is quite common as, anecdotally, I hear of similar experiences that others are having when they start to practice gratitude.
You can read my blog post Gratitude – A Cure for Depression? for a fuller treatment of this subject.
Gratitude teaches us to enjoy what we have
If we look around it is pretty obvious that the pursuit of materialism did not bring with it the increase in happiness we once thought it might. As someone (not Carlin apparently) so brilliantly put it:
“Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.”
Yet still we fall for all the advertising and media and rush off to buy the next iphone as soon as it comes out. Meanwhile our previous iphone is still perfectly wonderful and packed with functions we haven’t even worked out how to use.
Sadly, we have become the society of the chronically discontent and no matter how much we buy, the buzz wears off quickly and we begin, yet again, the search for the next thing we ‘need’.
Gratitude brings into sharp focus the things we already have and blurs out the mountain of things we have become convinced that we lack.
This revolutionary and life giving change of view helps relieve the constant craving for more.
Gratitude makes us healthier
Negative emotions and a pessimistic outlook take their toll on our health in a variety of ways.
Adopting a more grateful attitude leads us to greater optimism and all the associated health benefits that optimism provides.
An ever-growing pile of scientific research is showing clear links between good health and positive attitudes. Nobel Prize winner (medicine) Elizabeth Blackburn’s work on telomeres indicates that those who are pessimistic age around 20% faster than optimists.
Gratitude improves relationships
When it comes to others most of us are talented, experienced, fault-finders. One of the effects of gratitude that I enjoy the most is the way it helps me, more easily, look for the good in others.
If I have a focus on gratitude and I am intentionally taking notice of what people bring to me and the ways in which they are great rather than what they lack then the complaints and criticisms turn into compliments and thanks.
“Among all emotions, there is one which, more than any other, accounts
for the presence or absence of stress in human relations:
that is the feeling of gratitude.”
Dr. Hans Selye of McGill University
According to Dr John Gottman, world leader on the subject of marriage… gratitude is a huge contributor to a flourishing marriage.
It stands to reason that what works in the most complicated of human relationships works well in all relationships.
Be it a partner, a colleague, a child or a friend – when I take time to communicate my appreciation to someone it makes them feel valued and this strengthens my relationship with them.
Relationships are like little gardens – fertilise, water, fertilise, water and weed out any negatives.
Now I have to confess to increased optimism.
Now I confess to smelling roses and basking in sunshine.
Now I smile more often and sometime float on a sea of wonder.
Have I lost my marbles or am I avoiding the truth?
No… I have just discovered that the reality of life is that no matter the difficulty you face – good things still abound and that if I look for them I will find them.
Try it, you’ll like it.