A Quest for Gratitude!

I recently read an article about the impact that gratitude can have on one’s sense of happiness, outlook on life and even impact your health positively. This struck me as interesting and I wanted to know more. Initially I thought, “Well, I’m a grateful person,” but how does one express that.

In another post, I mentioned the VIA Survey of Signature Strengths. Research from that assessment/intervention tool shows that the five strengths most related to happiness are zest, curiosity, hope and optimism, gratitude, and capacity to love and be loved. Imagine my confusion when I looked at my VIA results and found that only two of those markers were found in my top 10. Gratitude was a whooping #13.

That’s when I re-read that article I mentioned earlier.  With gratitude being the most malleable strength, I sought an opportunity to improve its place on my VIA results and my life. Robert Emmons, author of “Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier” explains that “gratitude is more of an approach to life, more of an attitude. People can have gratitude in spite of illness or the loss of their job or a number of significant life events.”

So how does one impact the most malleable strength? Just as you would any muscle, you have to use it. One way you can do this is by utilizing a gratitude journal. Set an initial goal of writing 3-5 things that you are grateful for in a journal, smartphone, email or whatever forum feels best for you. Commit to doing this every day for a week, month or longer if you desire. Be sure to read your list at night and reflect on the people, experiences, sensations and feelings for which you are grateful that day. You can even expand your journal to include pictures, articles, movie passes or other creative markers of your gratitude. Most importantly, make a conscious effort to recognize and appreciate the people and things that impact you positively.

Over time, you may notice that you are a bit more compassionate, positive or hopeful. You may find yourself optimistic or even eager to share your feeling of gratefulness with others. You may begin to write thank you notes or others may model themselves after you as the spirit of gratitude acts as a contagion. With the potential to impact yourself, your family and all those around you, why don’t you start today? After all, I am grateful that you took the time to read this post and hope I might be able to spread the gratitude bug, which is much better that than the alternative!

Chantyl Parris, LMSW

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