Conversations naturally turn to gratitude and thanks in the month of November. My mother always told us to be grateful for both the small and big things in life. She encouraged us to look around us, to other people, and inside ourselves to find things to be grateful for. As I walked to school in the morning, I observed nature around me, the classmates I played with and talked to, and the simple things that made my life enjoyable, and I found much to be grateful for.

What does it really mean to live a life of gratitude, and why is it important?

Benefits of Gratitude

Many studies over the past ten years demonstrate that people who continually assess their blessings and live with gratitude are happier and less depressed.

According to an article titled “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude that Will Motivate You to Give Year-Round” by psychotherapist Erin Morin published in Forbes, benefits of gratitude include

  • opening doors to relationships,
  • improving physical health,
  • improving psychological health,
  • enhances empathy,
  • reduces aggression,
  • improves sleep,
  • improves self-esteem, and
  • increases mental strength.

Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading experts on gratitude, believes gratefulness has a positive effect on mental health because it affirms that good exists in the world. A second reason is that sources of goodness outside ourselves—people or a higher power—give us gifts of help us create goodness in the world.

In other words, happiness is a byproduct of the appreciation we show others.

Ten Habits of Grateful People

People who live with gratitude share common characteristics and practices that influence the way they think and see the world. Some of these habits include

  • Expressing appreciation for their life as a way of life.
  • Finding joy in the small things.
  • Looking for the good, even in challenging times.
  • Not making excuses and refusing to play the “victim” card.
  • Focusing on the good in others.
  • Looking for life lessons in hard times.
  • Focusing on what they have while working toward a greater goal.
  • Understanding the value of things money can’t buy.
  • Expressing happiness for other people’s successes.
  • Encouraging others enduring hardship or struggle.

Grateful people possess a healthy perspective on the bigger picture issues of life. They live with intentionality and purpose, and they understand that life’s most difficult challenges are opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.

Putting Gratitude into Practice

We all can benefit from increasing our gratitude quotient. These are some practical ways to learn how to “grow in gratitude:

  • Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Create a gratitude jar.
  • Write a letter expressing thanks to an old friend or mentor.
  • Give someone a call and tell them how grateful you are for them.
  • Set aside a specific time frame—two weeks or a month—to focus on cultivating the art of gratitude in your life—and focus on how it changes your perspective.

As my mother told me, when you live with gratitude, your are eyes open blessings and opportunities that ungrateful eyes don’t see. I am grateful to God for the many gifts in my life, and I say to you, Thank you for the positive contributions you bring to this world.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Dr. Clem