The Importance of Gratitude

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I recently realized I need to become a more grateful person. Negativity had crept into my daily routine and was starting to affect my overall happiness. In some ways, I can understand where the negativity came from; life can become fairly monotonous when you stay at home full-time with a toddler. Trains again? Sure! We’ve only been doing that the whole morning… for the last month, but sure! I’d love to play it again with you! But I realized I was forgetting all the good things I had in my life and decided to try and do something about it.

Grateful People Are Happier People

Did you know research has shown that people who are more grateful generally experience a host of positive health benefits? Robert Emmons, Ph.D., the leading scientific expert on gratitude, found that grateful people typically enjoy numerous benefits including having stronger immune systems, reporting less aches and pains, sleeping better, having better blood pressure, and exercising more frequently. They also tend to be more optimistic, find more joy and pleasure in daily activities, feel less lonely, are more forgiving, and are more compassionate people.

Take Time To Reflect

According to Dr. Emmons, one of the easiest ways to experience more gratitude in your life is to keep a gratitude diary. By setting aside time, each day, to think about some of the ordinary things in our life that we are grateful for, we can help train our brains to be more cognizant of the good in our life. As Dr. Emmons puts it, “You cannot feel envious and grateful at the same time. They’re incompatible feelings.”

My Gratitude Journal

Over the last few days I have written in a journal the things for which I am grateful. Each night, I chose one thing and just wrote for a few minutes; concentrating on why I am grateful. In the spirit of being transparent, and in hopes of inspiring others to become more grateful as well, here are a few things from my journal:

I am grateful for…

Being able to live in this amazing city. Madison has so much going for it. I never realized how kid-friendly the city is until now. When I travel elsewhere, and talk to people who don’t live here, I realize how fortunate I am. We have amazing libraries. Before having a kid, I never step foot in a library, but now I can’t imagine my life without them. And the fact that our libraries are some of the best in the country is pretty cool. I am also grateful that we have so many lakes and trails to explore. The other thing that astounds me is the number of amazing restaurants this city has, and how many of them are kid friendly. I feel blessed to be able to raise my family here and am only now beginning to realize the full wonderfulness of this amazing city. So, thank you Madison for being a wonderful place to live.

I am grateful for…

My amazing friends. There’s nothing better than having a friend who just gets you. I love that I have people in my life that I feel so comfortable with that I can tell them anything; no matter how personal, or embarrassing, because I know that I won’t be judged for being myself. I love that it never feels awkward with these friends, regardless of what we’re doing, or not doing. I love that I have friends who will meet up with me on a moment’s notice and always seems to know exactly what I need when I’m having a rough day. So, thank you friends. I appreciate you and your friendship more than you could ever know.

I am grateful for…

My son. You are far from perfect, but you give me joy every single day. You give me purpose and inspire me to be a better person. I’ve learned to be a more patient person, learned to control my anger and frustration with others better, and am in the process of learning how to give up control of the things in my life that doesn’t really matter. I am excited to see what kind of a person you will become, and I’m excited that I can play a role in your life. Thank you for being you, son; for all the things you’ve already taught me, and for all of the things that I have yet to learn.

I am grateful for…

My wife. I am so appreciative of how hard you work to provide for our family. I know that your work is not easy, and there are many days when you come home from work frustrated by something that happened during your day. But, I know you do what you do, not only because you enjoy what you do, but also because you want to provide the best life you can possibly provide for us. I know that you’re often exhausted from working your long hours, but I appreciate the time you give us each night when you come home from work. I also know that we don’t have as much “us” time as we did prior to having kids, and I am grateful this hasn’t made you love me any less. I’m sure life will get even crazier for us before it gets better, but I know you’ll be there for me regardless of how things turn out. So, thank you for being the loving wife you are. I appreciate it.

How does one become more mindful of the great things we have in our life? Dr. Emmons provides a few suggestions, but much like anything it comes down to practice. We need to train our brains to focus on both the little and big things in our lives that we may otherwise miss. One tool I really like is Dr. Emmons’ idea of using visual reminders to help trigger our grateful thoughts. It can be as simple as an object you encounter everyday or as complex as a person or place. But the best part about all of this, is that even if we just go through the motions of being grateful for things, the emotions of gratitude can be triggered. So, with all of this in mind, what are you grateful for?

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