Count Your Many Blessings

…name them one by one.
Christian traditions of counting blessings under girded by the admonition in the Bible, “give thanks in all things” 1 Thessalonians 5:18, have long been enjoined, but modern research is just catching up with the fact that giving thanks and being grateful is actually good for you.

Being Grateful is Good for Your Mind and Body

Emmons and colleagues, in their gratitude research, have uncovered some startling (in a good way) findings about the power of giving thanks. Consider these amazing benefits:

• Greater Optimism and Physical Fitness: People who kept weekly gratitude journals exercised on a more regular basis, felt better physically and about their lives in general, and had a more optimistic attitude about the upcoming week than people who recorded negative or neutral things in a journal.

• Achieve Your Goals: Those who kept gratitude lists were closer to attaining their personal goals after a two-month period than those who did not.

• Stress Relief: Being grateful is also an effective way to release stress, according to Emmons. “Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress,” he said in a WebMD article.

• Greater Sense of Wellbeing and Positive Emotions: People who are grateful report higher levels of positive emotions, vitality and life satisfaction, and lower levels of depression and stress.

• Helps You Cope With Illness: Among people with a neuromuscular disease, Emmons found that a “21-day gratitude intervention” produced more “high-energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.”

Of course, being grateful is also beneficial for others. Giving thanks helps other people feel recognized, which is a basic and fundamental need in all of us. -from the Seneca Method site

Helpful for the upcoming holidays is this reminder:

People often have unhappy holidays because they have unrealistic expectations for perfection among their loved ones, Emmons says. Christmas is also a time when people reflect on the gap between their current situation and where in life they wish they were.

“Gratitude, by contrast, is a deepened appreciation of circumstances in your life right now vs. where you want to be,” Emmons says. “Feeling gratitude reduces unpleasant feelings like envy, resentment and regret that rob people of happiness.”

Doesn’t it make sense to incorporate true thanksgiving attitudes of gratefulness into our celebration , starting with the Thanksgiving Holiday? I know I benefited from two types of blogging this year in terms of what kept me grounded in my thinking instead of being overwhelmed by thoughts of failure.One was the accounting of where my resolutions headed throughout the year, and the other was my (sporadic) Thankful Thursdays. Those are my form of journaling blessings.

This excerpted info from UC of Davis makes me want to ratchet up the gratitude attitude going into 2008:

Emmons’ gratitude research participants experienced fewer symptoms of physical illness than those in the other groups, spent significantly more time exercising and were more likely to report having offered emotional support to others.

In another study focusing on people with either congenital or adult-onset neuromuscular diseases, Emmons found that their gratefulness practices not only fostered daily positive feelings but also reduced daily negative emotions and increased overall life satisfaction.