Finding Gratitude is a Centering Skill. “Growing Gratitude Improves My Attitude.”
What am I grateful for in myself, others, my situation, or life itself?
Gratitude profoundly affects our sense of wellbeing. When we focus on gratitude, our emotional resilience is strengthened. In most situations, there is something you can find to be grateful for—though we might have to work a bit to see it.
Why Finding Gratitude — The Science
- Grateful people are higher in positive emotions such as hope, optimism, happiness, vitality, and life satisfaction and also lower in negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, and envy. They are also more empathic, forgiving, helpful, and supportive.
- Gratitude improves sleep: total sleep quality, subjective sleep quality, sleep latency, and sleep duration.
- Gratitude also increases important neurochemicals, with a surging of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. These contribute to the feelings of closeness, connection and happiness that come with gratitude.
- Gratitude’s benefits take time. If you participate in a gratitude writing activity, don’t be too surprised if you don’t feel dramatically better immediately after the writing.
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that gratitude activates areas in the mesolimbic and basal forebrain, regions involved in feelings of reward and the formation of social bonds.
- McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J.-A. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(1), 112–127.
- Wood, A., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., and Atkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions, Psychosomatic Research, 66, 43–48
- Allen, S. The Science of Gratitude (2018), A white paper prepared for the John Templeton Foundation by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley
- Zahn, R., Moll, J., Paiva, M., Garrido, G., Krueger, F., Huey, E. D., & Grafman, J. (2009). The neural basis of human social values: Evidence from functional MRI. Cerebral Cortex, 19(2), 276–283.
- Doll, A., Holzel, B., Bratec, S., Boucard, C., Xiyao, X., Wohlschlager, A., and Sorg, C. (2016). Mindful attention to breath regulates emotions via increased amygdala-prefrontal cortex connectivity. NeuroImage. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.03.041
- Li C, Chang Q, Zhang J, and Chai W. (2018). Effects of slow breathing rate on heart rate variability and arterial baroreflex sensitivity in essential hypertension. Medicine (Baltimore). 97(18):e0639)
- Jerath, R., Crawford, M.W., Barnes, V.A. et al. Self-Regulation of Breathing as a Primary Treatment for Anxiety. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 40, 107–115 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10484-015-9279-8
How to Practice-Model-Coach
- Morning Gratitude: Make the habit of starting your day by writing down three things you are grateful for.
- Daily gratitude review. Before bed, identify three things from your day for which you are grateful.
- Gratitude In the Moment. Take one minute to think about your day and a stressful situation that happened. Think about one thing you are grateful for about that situation or person. How might it change your stressful situations if you can find gratitude during the moment?
- Week of Gratitude. Every day for a week, write down three things for which you are grateful. Write different things each day. Notice how this impacts you.
- Sharing your Gratitude Inventory. When you notice something to be grateful for, share it in the moment. By sharing your gratitude you are reinforcing the benefits of gratitude and it will be easier for others to practice the habit of being grateful as well.
- Make a list of ten things in your life you are grateful for. Share this list with at least one person in your family and notice how it makes you feel.
- Invite your family a few times a week to share what they are grateful for. Talk about how sharing what you are grateful for increases its benefits and spreads the benefits of gratitude to others.
Resources for Finding Gratitude
- The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life By Janice Kaplan
- The Life-Changing Power of Gratitude: 7 Simple Exercises that will Change Your Life for the Better. By Marc Reklau
Tweens & Teens
- Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes (Age 4-8)
- We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell (Age 3-7)
- Zen Pig: The Art of Gratitude, Written by Mark Brown