To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kindness that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude. — Albert Schweitzer
Why is it important to be grateful? You have heard the wise old quote, “ I have never known a person who was grateful and unhappy and I never knew a person who was not grateful that was happy. Ungrateful people end up resenting God for what they do not have. It seems that gratitude is central to a happy life.
Researchers that have studied gratitude and its relationship to health and emotional well being have shown why it is important. Below is a list that researchers like Martin Seligman, Robert Emmons, and Michael McCullough have given to help us understand how gratitude is helpful.
- People who keep gratitude journals have been found to exercise more, have fewer physical symptoms, feel better about their lives, and feel more optimistic about their life than those who keep journals listing the stressors of their life.
- Daily discussions of gratitude results in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, energy, and sleep duration and quality. Grateful people also report lower levels of depression and stress, although they do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life
- People who think about, talk about, or write about gratitude daily are more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or offered emotional support to another person.
- Those with a disposition towards gratitude are found to place less importance on material goods, less likely to judge their own or others success in terms of possessions accumulated, are less envious of wealthy people, and are more likely to share their possessions with others.
- Emerging research suggest that daily gratitude practices may have some preventative benefits in warding off coronary artery disease.
How does this work? Basically, how you think affects how you feel (emotionally and physically). So if you increase your positive thoughts, like gratitude, you can increase your sense of well being as well as, perhaps, objective measures of physical health (like fewer symptoms of illness and increased immune functioning).