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The Gratitude Effect

Gratitude with Dr Adam FieldsWe are inundated with serial tasks to keep up with our busy lives but is there enough time to just stop and be thankful? New research suggests that stopping to feel and express gratitude is key to our health and happiness level. In fact, expanding a capacity for deep abiding appreciation is one of our surest paths to happiness. What religion, philosophy or psychology would disagree?
I love when scientific research catches up with ancient wisdom. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a group of participants were assigned different tasks: one group kept a journal of 5 things they were grateful for per week, another kept a journal of hassles and the third were just told to list things that affected them.
Nine weeks later the grateful group had a more optimistic view of their future and felt better about their lives. So, that may seem obvious to you positive thinkers out there, but check out the health benefits. The thankful group had fewer symptoms due to physical illness than the others. Now we’re saving money on doctor’s visits. Grateful people were found to spend more time exercising – up to 80 minutes more per week. What a way to get yourself to the gym!
Speaking of getting in shape; this gratitude muscle of yours may be weak or atrophied. You may lumber to your morning shower rehearsing all of your worry, fear and doubt. Well, it’s time to get gratitude buffed. Push yourself; your health depends on it. You won’t add a day to your life by the negative but being positive will get you healthier and save you some money.
The Journal of Happiness Studies published an article saying gratitude can reduce materialistic strivings and the negative affects they have on mental health. Instead of needing and wanting the next thing, imagine teaching your child how to enjoy a sunset. The warmth, color, reflections, glow and significance of another day could all be encompassed in a moment of contemplation. Let that appreciation seep into every area of your lives.
Whether you believe in miracles or not, let’s look at the famous “Feeding of the 5,000” story of the Bible. Jesus takes three loaves of bread and two fish, breaks them and feeds over 5000 people. What amazed me about this account was that he started with such a meager amount of food yet looks up and gives thanks for what was there. After the gratitude for a pittance came abundance.
So, count blessings instead of sheep. Keep a gratitude journal on your Smartphone. Keep grateful people in your life and try to convert or eliminate the negativity junkies. Ask others questions that elicit gratitude. “What inspires you?” “What do you love about your day?” “What do your friends love about you?” “Who would you most thank for being in your life?” “What do you love about the rain?”
With your creativity unleashed, you’ll have fun being positive. You will be the fire this winter that everyone wants to be around for warmth.
-Adam Fields, DC

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