I remember coming across the phrase “The attitude of gratitude” in Rhonda Byrne’s hugely successful book and DVD The Secret a few years back. I thought about that phrase a lot because it seemed to be a missing ingredient in a lot of folks’ lives, including many of the patients I saw. As I tried to remain mindful of giving gratitude in my own life, I was struck by how quickly doing so could make me feel calmer and peaceful. In fact, nothing helps me relax and go to sleep faster and easier than thinking about what I am grateful for on nights when I struggle to get sleep.
The act of expressing or feeling gratitude may turn out to be a hidden key to good health and happiness. Gratitude has been dubbed “the moral memory of mankind.” Studies show that people who practice gratitude are more helpful and pleasant to be around, and being around pleasant people is never a bad thing in my book. People who keep a gratitude journal become more optimistic, report fewer health complaints, and spend more time exercising. They also self-report feeling more joyful, enthusiastic, energetic, determined, and strong.
Research also bore out what I learned in my own case-engaging in gratitude behavior improves sleep. Study participants reported getting more hours of sleep per night, spending less time awake before falling asleep, and feeling more refreshed in the morning. In other words, count your blessings not sheep.
Gratitude also can boost self-esteem and social connectivity. Experiencing gratitude recognizes what somebody has done for you; thereby letting you feel loved and cared for. This can boost mood and eliminate negativity. It also acknowledges that social connections have taken place with others. My most connected patients are usually my happiest. When these connections are reinforced with thankfulness, it should create positive energy that strengthens these bonds.
I certainly feel energized when my patients or even my readers let me know that they are grateful for my help.