by Kathy Lee

Southern women have this down to a science—the art of saying thank you. A gracious and happy southern woman starts almost every statement with a “Thank you” for something. They make writing thank-you notes an art form. As it turns out, southern ladies are on to something—that showing gratitude improves well-being. Grateful responses to life can lead to peace of mind, happiness, physical health and deeper, more satisfying personal relationships.

What Is Gratitude and Why Does It Make a Difference?
Gratitude is hard to define or classify. Is it an attitude, emotion, virtue, habit, personality trait, politeness, religious belief, coping skill or something else?

Psychologist Robert A. Emmons and associates studied and reported on accumulated scientific evidence that the expression of gratitude improves psychological and emotional health, as well as interpersonal and romantic relationships.

How Do Recognition of and Expressions of Gratitude Improve Life?
Dr. Emmons looked at ten theories or hypotheses as to how this happens:

  • Gratitude facilitates coping with stress. This could be because expressing gratitude gives the person something to focus on besides the stress.
  • Gratitude reduces toxic emotions resulting from self and social comparisons. When it seems that everyone posts how wonderful their life is on social media, taking a moment to focus on the good in one’s own life can bolster personal accomplishments.
  • Gratitude reduces materialistic strivings because they represent opposing motivational goals.
  • Gratitude improves self-esteem.
  • Gratitude enhances accessibility to positive memories by boosting the retrieval of positive memories.
  • Gratitude builds social resources by enhancing social relationships.
  • Gratitude motivates moral behavior or action that is meant to benefit another.
  • Grateful people are more spiritually minded.
  • Gratitude facilitates goal attainment.
  • Gratitude promotes physical health.

Misconceptions and Gratitude
Expressing gratitude does not require wealth, and it does not require you to spend money. It is not a method of payment or restitution. It should not be done to ‘get’ something.

Some argue that gratitude is easy when the abundant life is in play. How about when a person is at a low point or experiences staggering loss in their personal life? What about in the face of adverse conditions? It can be seen as a helpful coping behavior for the ugly parts of life.

Expressing gratitude is a simple, easy way to serve others and oneself.

How To Do This Gratitude Attitude Approach?
It does not take much effort to have ‘an attitude of gratitude’. Writers have offered several suggestions as to how to do this:

  • Start every day in a thankful mode or mood.
  • End the day by writing out the things you are thankful for that you noticed that day.
  • Make it a habit in your interactions, but always be sincere with your attitude.
  • Practice it. Try it. See if it changes you mentally and physically.
  • Make it a habit to be thankful and sincerely express thankfulness to others. It can change your outlook, your day and maybe your life.