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Having an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’



Do you remember those years of pre-teen angst? Maybe you have a pre-teen right now and know all too well what I’m talking about. One minute your kid is complaining about chores and giving you sass you didn’t know was possible and in the next breath apologizing and confessing their undying love for you. It was during one of these episodes in my own pre-teen years that one of my aunts used to say to me, “have an attitude of gratitude!” Of course, it would drive me up the wall with annoyance (why did she have to rhyme everything?!) but as I have gotten older, I have grown to appreciate what she was (and did end up) instilling in me: true gratitude. And I’m pretty sure I annoy my own kids just as much with all my singing!


So, what does having an attitude of gratitude really mean? Well, for starters, it goes deeper than attitude, or even saying “thank you.” Practicing an attitude of gratitude eventually becomes a way of living, a noticing of the little things that bring moments of glimmer to your day. The benefits of gratitude are many and include enhancing peace of mind, reducing rumination, and reducing depressive symptoms (Liang, Chen, Li, Wu, Wang, Zheng, & Zeng, 2018). The benefits also include buffering from stress and depression (Wood, Maltby, Gillett, Linley, & Joseph, 2008), and improving sleep, increasing happiness, experiencing greater resiliency, and increasing satisfaction with life.


What are next steps for reaping the benefits of this in your own life?

Start by simply going through the day taking notice of the things that you are grateful for, that ‘spark joy’. It doesn’t have to be enormous, sometimes the day-to-day things are what matter most, and each person is unique in this!  The sound of a wind chime, the first bite of a perfect Costco hot dog, a spreadsheet that sums up perfectly at the end of the day, the first feel of grass under your feet, a smile from a stranger passing by. It’s in the stopping and noticing of how this feels, that the gratitude has a chance to deepen and literally re-shape our brain.

Another way to take this a step further is to keep a gratitude journal, or notebook, to make note of the things that you are grateful for. Engaging in this practice of giving and receiving gratitude releases dopamine in the brain, which in turn makes the connection between the behaviour and increases that sense of pleasure. Try this with your family! Journal together at the end of the day. And if you have younger kids, let them each have a journal to draw something they are grateful for in their day- you might be surprised at their perspective. 

Any way you shake it, the benefits of gratitude are too many to ignore! Be on the lookout for ways to be grateful, and things that inspire gratitude. You just might be surprised at how it changes your perspective.

 

 

Liang, H., Chen, C., Li, F., Wu, S., Wang, L., Zheng, X., & Zeng, B. (2018). Mediating effects of peace of mind       and rumination on the relationship between gratitude and depression among Chinese university   students. Current Psychology, p. 1-8.

Wood, A. M., Maltby, J., Gillett, R., Linley, A., & Joseph, S. (2008). The role of gratitude in the development of      social support, stress, and depression: Two longitudinal studies. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(4), 854-871.

               

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