Now that Thanksgiving is behind us and we've had our annual holiday reminder to be thankful (and for some, a good dose of turkey coma), let us not forget to have thankfulness every day.
We're heard it said time and again that an "attitude of gratitude" is one of the keys to a fulfilling life. You might already practice this, or it may not be anything new to you. But sometimes we need a reminder -- or a gentle nudge. So here are some ways you can experience more love and gratitude every day:
1. Be grateful for the person who pushes your buttons
The best way to do this is to write out a list of all the benefits this person gives you. Continue until you feel gratitude in your heart -- no matter how long it takes. At times when we feel negative or upset by someone, by discovering all the benefits this person gives us we develop a balanced perspective, and negativity slips away - at least for some time. By seeing all the benefits, your heart opens. When your heart opens, you can let go - and focus on what you would love to create in this lifetime.
"Gratitude is the heart's memory." --French proverb
2. Love unconditionally
Love the people who are in your life for who they are, not who you would like them to be. If you wish to change someone, you are not loving them. This does not mean you must keep people in your life who are unhealthy for you, but rather appreciate all that they give you -- and all that they don't give you -- and let them go if you need to. Keep your heart open no matter what.
3. Be present
By giving our loved ones our undivided attention and being fully present and in the moment, we are respecting them. Pay attention to them. Really listen to what they have to say when you are in their company. They will give you clues about what matters the most to them. Being fully present with people we care about is the best gift we can give them.
4. Write down what you are thankful for
There is magic in writing down our thoughts on paper or typing them into a computer. Before going to bed or upon waking, write down a list of all the people and events you are grateful for right now. Become highly aware of who and what you are grateful for and embrace all of it with your heart -- your whole heart.
5. Express your thankfulness
Tell the people in your life how much you appreciate them for. You may be thankful for something they have done, or didn't do, or for how they made you feel -- or didn't feel. A simple "thank you" goes a long way.
What are you going to give thanks for today? Tweet to me at @Shannon_Skinner. I would love to hear from you.
Shannon Skinner is a television and radio host, inspirational speaker, writer and author of The Whispering Heart: Your Inner Guide to Creativity.
This article originally appeared at ShannonSkinner.com.
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Grateful teens are happier, according to a study presented at one of the annual meetings of the American Psychological Association. Researchers also found that teens who are grateful -- defined in this study as having a positive outlook on life -- are more well-behaved at school and more hopeful than their less-grateful peers. They also got better grades, had less envy and more friends due to their optimism. "More gratitude may be precisely what our society needs to raise a generation that is ready to make a difference in the world," said study researcher Giacomo Bono, Ph.D., a psychology professor at California State University.
Being constantly mindful of all the things you have to be thankful for can boost your well-being, research suggests. In a series of experiments detailed in a 2003 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, daily exercise practices and listing off all the things you are thankful for are linked with a brighter outlook on life and a greater sense of positivity. "There do appear to exist benefits to regularly focusing on one's blessings," the researchers wrote in the study. "The advantages are most pronounced when compared with a focus on hassles or complaints, yet are still apparent in comparison with simply reflecting the major events in one’s life, on ways in which one believes one is better off than comparison with others, or with a control group."
Grateful high-schoolers have higher GPAs -- as well as better social integration and satisfaction with life -- than their non-grateful counterparts, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of Happiness Studies. Researchers also found that grateful teens were less depressed and envious. This could be a factor in why the teens got better grades since they were less distracted and lived healthier lives. "When combined with previous research, a clearer picture is beginning to emerge about the benefits of gratitude in adolescents, and thus an important gap in the literature on gratitude and well-being is beginning to be filled," researchers wrote.
According to a 2003 study in the the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, gratitude could also boost pro-social behaviors, such as helping other people who have problems or lending emotional support to another person. This explains why religious services include reflection days and why so many self-help groups such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) use grateful thinking practices.
Writing down what you're thankful for as you drift off to sleep can quiet the mind and help you get better ZZs, according to a study in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Specifically, researchers found that when people spent 15 minutes jotting down what they're grateful for in a journal before bedtime, they fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer because they worried less, Psychology Today reported. Participants with neuromuscular disorders reported that they had more refreshing sleep in just 3 weeks.
Being thankful for the little things your partner does could make your relationship stronger, according to a study in the journal Personal Relationships. The Telegraph reported on the study, which showed that journaling about the thoughtful things your partner did was linked with a beneficial outcome on the relationship. The researchers found that gratitude for everyday kind gestures helps people become close to others who care about their well-being. They claim, "Gratitude may help to turn 'ordinary' moments into opportunities for relationship growth, even in the context of already close, communal relations.’'
A 1995 study in the American Journal of Cardiology showed that appreciation and positive emotions are linked with changes in heart rate variability. [This] may be beneficial in the treatment of hypertension and in reducing the likelihood of sudden death in patients with congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease.
Athletes are less likely to burn out and more likely to experience high life satisfaction and team satisfaction when they are grateful, according to a 2008 study in the journal Social Indicators Research of high-schoolers. Gratitude sharpens the senses, enhancing athletic performance according to Positive Performance Training.
Gratefulness is linked with optimism, which in turn is linked with better immune health, WebMD reported. For example, a University of Utah study showed that stressed-out law students who were optimistic had more white blood cells (which help boost your immune system) than people who were pessimistic, according to WebMD.
WebMD reported that negative events can boost gratitude, and that gratitude can help to increase feelings of belonging and decrease feelings of stress. Interestingly, adversity can enhance gratitude, helping people to feel more connected after a terrible event, such as 9/11. A survey showed that feelings of gratitude were at high levels after 9/11, according to WebMD.
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