Neuroscience tells us we are creating pathways in our brain, much like ruts in a dirt road, that become deeper and deeper, and therefore, more difficult to pull out of. Why build a road to a place you don’t want to go? When life is good — the place we want to go— we find ourselves expressing appreciation.
Expressing gratitude is much more than saying thank you. The practice of gratitude is appreciating your life at the present moment: marveling at the sunset, seeing freedom in job loss, valuing morning rituals, savoring opportunities to give back. Esther Hicks talks about a Rampage of Appreciation — allowing yourself to be enthralled and uplifted by an attitude of gratitude.
A study in 2012 shows that grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier.
According to Dr. Robert A. Emmons, a leading researcher and psychologist, gratitude also reduces toxic emotions from envy to resentment.
A study at the University of Kentucky, determined that grateful people are more likely to be empathetic.
Applied Psychology Journal says that writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep.
And the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increases self-esteem.
Finally, a study in 2006 says recognizing all you have to be thankful for, even during the worst times of your life, fosters resilience. Gratitude endures.
A few years back I began a gratitude journal, looking for specific things, people, moments to be grateful for each day. I was good at giving thanks for the huge things in my life — income, shelter, health. But I lacked the knack of seeing all the little things for which I could be thankful. I missed the sunshine on golden leaves, the playfulness of a pile of pumpkins, the warmth in a handshake. As I practiced gratitude, my ruts were no longer taking me to a place I didn’t want to go.