How to grow graciously—15 reasons to cultivate gratitude

By Etta Hornsteiner
woman with outstretched arms

The ability to grow is one of the characteristics of living things. As humans, we continue to grow neurologically as we age.  But one of the things that makes us different from other living things is our ability to feel and express gratitude. Gratitude gives life and brings healing to the body, mind, and soul. Below are 15 reasons to cultivate gratitude.

Here are 15 reasons to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

1. Gratitude is the mother of joy.

Look around you. What is it that you see today that you can be thankful for? Count your blessings not your burdens.

2. Gratitude keeps you young.

It keeps the heart tender, enlivens the eyes, relaxes the limbs, and ignites and softens the face.

3. Gratitude makes you feel good.

Gratitude is mental sunshine. People over age 55 are at a greater risk for depression, according to Dr. William Eaton, mental health professor at Johns Hopkins University. The loss of a loved one can be what triggers the onset of this disease. However, cultivating gratitude can help stave off depression. The increased endorphins help you to feel good.

4. Gratitude is a mental shifter.

Gratitude can shift you from negativity to positivity. The mind cannot focus on positivity and negativity simultaneously. Practice having an attitude of gratitude and watch your life make the shift from despair to joy.

5. Gratitude changes the content of the mind.

Instead of focusing on what’s negative, gratitude encourages you to look at what’s working, what’s positive.

6. Gratitude promotes health.

Gratitude:

  • reduces pain
  • promotes better sleep
  • relieves stress
  • reduces anxiety and depression

7. Gratitude helps you to connect to something greater than yourself—be it another person, nature or a higher power.

You can use prayer, for instance, to express gratitude.

8. Gratitude eradicates worry.

Worry is about the future; gratitude is about the here and now. If you practice staying present, tomorrow would take care of itself. Today is your gift to celebrate life.

9. Gratitude draws people to you.

Loneliness can become a challenge for some as they age; however, gratitude can attract people. Being grateful requires “transcending self-interest enough to share and celebrate goodness in others and in the natural world,” writes Dr. Barbara Fredrickson in Positivity.

10. Gratitude is the antidote to bitterness and resentment.

“Positive emotions—like all emotions—arise from how you interpret events and ideas as they unfold,” states Dr. Fredrickson. They depend on whether you allow yourself to find the good, and then to let it grow. Gratitude is an inner light that can dispel the darkness.

11. Gratitude cures perfectionism.

To accept your humanity is to accept your vulnerability. Aging makes you more sensitive to this vulnerability. As you allow yourself to be open and to receive the fullness of gratitude, you have to accept the fact that life is not perfect. Life does not have to be perfect for you to see things you can be thankful for.

12. Gratitude opens your heart.

Gratitude creates a sense of openheartedness. By saying “thank-you”, you acknowledge the bond between giver and receiver, writes M.J. Ryan, author of Attitudes of Gratitude. We are reluctant to open our hearts fully because “we are afraid to feel the love that gets created any time we express true thanks,” explains Ryan.

13. Gratitude spawns kindness and generosity.

Gratitude can motivate you to give, like “paying it forward”.  But this indebtedness must not become a burden, otherwise it loses its magic. “If you feel you have to pay someone back, then you’re not feeling grateful, you’re feeling indebted, which often feels distinctly unpleasant,” Dr. Fredrickson points out. Gratitude gives back freely when it comes from the right place—the heart.

14. Gratitude joins us to all life.

As you age, it is important to stay in community. A part of remaining in community is being connected to all life—nature as well as animals. It’s being appreciative to the Giver of All Life.

15. Gratitude opens us up to moments of grace.

Your presence is “neither earned nor deserved on the basis of perceived merit.” It is a gift to this world. May you be grateful for each moment and for each breath.

Now that you are aware of the holistic benefits of gratitude, you should make it a part of your life daily.

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude:

1. Keep a gratitude journal. This is one of the most popular ways to cultivate gratitude. Everyday write a page about an event, experience or individual you are grateful for. Try to describe why each good thing happened.

2. Take a walk outside. Give thanks for nature—the sky, the sun, flowers.scrap book for cultivating gratitude

3. Create a gratitude collage from magazine images of things you appreciate. Creating a scrap book of things or people you appreciate is also a good idea.

4. Perform a loving-kindness meditation. Close your eyes and focus on expressing gratitude to yourself. Feel appreciation for your body—your legs, arms, eyes, etc.

Now imagine expressing this gratitude toward someone else. Direct your thoughts of gratitude towards a person.

5. Say a grace before each meal. Offer sincere thanks for the food that is before you.

6. Use your departures as opportunities to give thanks. Before leaving a place or someone, express your appreciation for what you received from that place or person.

Conclusion:

The coming holidays can be a time of joy or a time of stress. By practicing an attitude of gratitude throughout the season, you can remain focused, healthy and open to enjoy the beauty of life and the season. Gratitude is like the sun: it keeps the inner light in your heart glowing. Gratitude is like water: it satisfies the soul and keeps you supple. Gratitude is like soil: out of it sprouts flowers.

 

 

Sources:

M.J. Ryan. Attitudes of gratitude: How to give and receive joy everyday of your life.

Barbara L. Fredrickson. Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3-to-1 ration that will change your life.

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