The Power of Gratitude

T

hank you; two words we utter daily, and yet we often neglect to acknowledge their true power and meaning. What does it really mean to say thank you and whom does it benefit?

Even in our darkest hours we always have something we can be grateful for. Sometimes, gratitude, the act of appreciation, can be the most challenging practice, but it always holds the potential for tremendous positive growth.

Practicing gratitude has remarkable power for two main reasons:

  • Gratitude allows us to see the positive in things:

    Sometimes we get carried away with emotion and struggle to find anything good in a particular situation. Being grateful has a great way of grounding us, and allows us to apply an optimistic lens to a circumstance and recognize elements of positivity that we may not have otherwise identified.

  • Gratitude Connects us to others:

    Gratitude has the ability to connect us to things outside of ourselves. It gets us to look at the world around us and pinpoint things that we truly appreciate. While these things can be as simple as good weather, having a safe and comfortable place to live, or having the time to pick up and read a book, we achieve a sense of inner peace and happiness when we don’t take such things for granted.  And, when we think about the people we are truly appreciative of and grateful for in our lives we connect ourselves to something bigger than just us.

While recognizing the power of gratitude is important, figuring out how to make it a habit is key.  Writing a letter of gratitude is an exercise that has been researched extensively and has been shown to increase levels of happiness and life satisfaction while simultaneously decreasing depression (Toepfer, Cichy & Peters, 2012).

A letter of gratitude can be written to anyone, as a way of expressing thanks for anything that feels meaningful to you, whether it be something big or small. While research shows that the impact on happiness is reported to be greater when the letter is actually given to an individual, these letters can also be written with no intention of being sent (Toepfer, Cichy & Peters, 2012).  This can feel unnatural and uncomfortable, but it is through this discomfort that we have the most opportunity to grow as individuals. Challenge yourself… think about who you are grateful for and step outside your comfort zone and say thank you in a way that feels significant and meaningful to you.

Toepfer, Steven M., Kelly Cichy, and Patti Peters. “Letters of gratitude: Further evidence for author benefits.” Journal of Happiness Studies 13.1 (2012): 187 201.

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