GRATITUDE by Dr. Patrick H. Lau

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”    ~Melody Beattie

喝水不忘掘井人. It is a Chinese proverb that says, “When you drink the water, think of those who dug the well.” Generally, the definition of gratitude is a warmly or deeply appreciative attitude for kindnesses or benefits received. Psychology Professor Robert Emmons, PhD, University of California, Davis, the world renowned authority in research on gratitude, states that gratitude has two key components, “First “it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.” In the second part of gratitude, he explains, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

Gratitude magnifies positive emotions. Grateful individuals have higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, optimism, self-worth and self-esteem. Cultivating a sense of gratitude make people feel 25% happier. They can experience more of the goodness in life regardless of life’s circumstances. They feel more meaningful. They have more optimism about the future and felt better about their lives. It also boosts their feelings of joy, pleasure, energy, vitality, alertness, determination, attentiveness and enthusiasm.  Gratitude promotes social bonds, strengthens existing relationships and nurtures new ones. Individuals practicing gratitude are more likely to recognize and express thankfulness to others; thus feeling more connected to others. It also makes them feel closer to their friends and more intimate commitment to their significant other. “It enhances one’s perception of the relationship’s communal strength.” Grateful people are more likely to feel loved; and they have stronger social relationships and they feel less lonely and depressed.

People incorporating gratitude into their everyday life tend to be more helpful, caring, altruistic, empathic, compassionate, spiritual, religious and forgiving. Feeling of thankfulness is linked to reduce negative emotions like anger, bitterness, envy, worry, fear, resentment, greedy, regret, and greed. Grateful people have more strive to accomplish their personal goals and are more willing to help others and volunteer. They have strong feelings of social support and a sense of belonging; they experience lower levels of depression and stress.

Gratitude enhances our productivity by maintaining us in a ‘can do’ mental state, energizing us and inspiring us to thrive. Those who practice gratitude tend to cope better and are more resilient and creative; they see the good in their life during trying times. They recuperate and bounce back more rapidly from adversity and traumatic events. Practicing gratitude can also remove people’s attention off material goods while emphasizing on what is most significant in life, such as family, friends, and relationships as well as other non-material features of life.

There are many health benefits of gratitude. Professor Emmons wrote, “Grateful

people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations. Feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress.” Psychologist Glen Affleck, PhD, University of Connecticut indicates that heart attack patients who become more appreciative of life have a reduced risk for subsequent heart attacks. Duke University researchers found that patients with severe arterial blockage were substantially less likely to say they count their blessings.

Professor Charles D. Kerns, PhD, Pepperdine University claimed that people focusing on gratitude demonstrated a positive impact on crucial physiological functions including improved heart and respiration rates as well as cardiovascular systems. They have lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease. Grateful individuals are more optimistic, a characteristic that enhances the immune system; they have greater resistance to viral infection; suffer fewer diseases as well as aches and pains. Gratitude can lead to longevity. A study involving Catholic nuns who showed gratitude, positive emotions and happiness lived up to ten years longer than their peers who did not express gratitude.

An article titled “In Praise of Gratitude” published in the November 2011 issue of the Harvard Medical School newsletter suggests some ways to cultivate and practice gratitude. 1. Write a thank-you note showing your appreciation of that individual’s impact on your life. It can make you happy and foster the relationship.   2. Mentally thank someone who has done you a favor. 3. Keep a daily gratitude journal. Jot down thoughts about the gifts, grace and benefits you have been bestowed. Remind yourself of the good things you enjoy.  4. Count your blessings.  Recognize and write down three to five blessings each week while contemplating your good feeling when good things happened to you. 5. Pray. Prayer can nurture gratitude. 6. Meditate.

Professor Emmons states that gratitude has the power to do three things: To heal, to energize, and to change lives. Being grateful, we experience happiness, fulfillment, gratification and love. By practicing gratitude, we live a happy, healthy and successful life.

From the Internet: “感激生育你的人, 因為他們使你體驗生命;感激撫養你的人,因為他們使你不斷成長。感激關懷你的人,因為他們給你溫暖。感激鼓勵你的人,因為他們給你力量。感激教育你的人,因為他們開化你的蒙昧。感激鍾愛你的人,因為他們讓你體會愛情的寶貴。心懷感恩,才能溫暖。”

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