As we take time this week to think about what we’re grateful for, let’s add gratitude itself to the list.
The practice of gratitude is a gift not only to others, but also to ourselves, as it’s been associated with many health benefits including: greater well-being and life satisfaction, improved sleep, fewer physical complaints, healing from trauma, greater empathy and optimism, and a lower overall lifetime risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression, alcohol and substance abuse and eating disorders (e.g., Kendler et al 2003; Emmons & McCullough 2003; Wood et al 2010, among many other research studies).
Gratitude involves developing the capacity to appreciate and savor life experiences. There are so many ways to feel and express gratitude. Here are a few to consider:
Though the cultural tendency may be to focus on what’s not going well (in order to address current challenges, solve problems and secure necessary support), we would do well to also practice a grateful outlook.
Gratitude is both a positive emotion that makes us happy and a personal strength that we can build like a muscle. Giving thanks is not just a one-day affair!
I'm grateful for science solving world problems!
Check out the Qingdao Saltwater Rice Research and Development Center and how Chinese researchers have developed rice that grows in saltwater, leading to productive initial yields in the United Arab Emirates.
A recent study of people living with middle stage HIV investigated the effect of compassionate love on their survival (Ironson, Kremer and Lucette, 2018).
Compassionate love has been defined as love that focuses on the well-being of the other person including: supporting the other’s free choice and valuing and empowering them, holding an accurate understanding of the other and their situation, and openness towards spirituality and responding from the heart.
The stress, coping and health status of the study participants was assessed every six months for seven years. The results found that offering oneself compassionate love predicted better survival. This was found even after controlling for other variables such as social support. The findings might be explained, though, by the fact that those who gave themselves compassionate love also tended to demonstrate better medication adherence.
The most significant finding though (not mediated by medication adherence) was that givingotherscompassionate love also predicted survival, whereas receiving it from others did not.
Simply put: giving to others is good for us – whether we give materially, or of our time, or through our compassionate stance towards others. It’s why volunteers tend to live longer; they receive the mental and physical benefits of giving. And now this research shows that, even if we are ill and living with a chronic condition, the giving of compassionate love to others and to ourselves, can also extend the quality and duration of our lives!
David Shutts, several years after receiving a diagnosis of stage four cancer, launched a website helping those with chronic medical conditions find meaningful work. After having experienced the negative impact of his own identity shrinking to that of “cancer patient,” David decided to start a nonprofit that would help people with illness remember their value and contribute their talents to society.
Check it out: www.astriid.org.uk