I was overwhelmed with gratitude last weekend as my husband and I celebrated our golden wedding anniversary. We talked a lot about the life we’ve created together, about how blessed and lucky we are. It got me thinking of the times I could have, but didn’t, express thanks over the past 50 years. And of the unexpected positive effect when I did.
Science backs this up. Positive Psychology studies show that when we deliberately cultivate gratitude, we increase our well-being and self-esteem as well as our sense of connection. In addition, saying ‘thank you’ to others can boost energy, optimism and empathy for both the sender and the receiver.
Think about what it is that you fully appreciate. For me, what comes to mind is the love of family, the support of friends, my inner strength and having a second chance. If you want to consider creating a gratitude practice, here are some practical tips to get you started:
Introduce gratitude when least expected. This may seem counterintuitive, but when you’re frustrated, imagine what you’re grateful for – moving through a crisis to a new perspective or sharing precious moments with loved ones. Turning your attention to gratitude for the primary essentials in your life can help put minor annoyances or discomforts in their proper place.
Long for what you already have. Wish for friends who understand you, exercise that keeps you fit and healthy, freedom to express your opinions, a caring partner, grandchildren to enjoy. Count your blessings and see how it feels to immediately receive these good feelings – that’s part of the magic.
Offer gifts that say thank you. Express gratitude through giving. Reflect on your appreciation of a family member or friend, and then put your thoughts into action. Write a letter that includes their amazing qualities and favorite memories of your time together. Or, for someone in need, create a book of certificates that can ease their distress – an evening of babysitting, a home cooked meal, a ride to the doctor or grocery store.
As awareness is the first step toward creating change, I’ll leave you with the Three Blessings exercise, designed by Dr. Martin Seligman to increase life satisfaction. Numerous studies confirm that becoming more conscious of good events increases happiness and decreases depression. Savoring these positive moments and expressing a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for them can be a daily gift you give yourself as well as others.