In many situations, people may feel as if they don’t need to express gratitude towards someone because that person would have done it anyway. In my personal experience, showing appreciation and gratitude doesn’t require big gestures, but a simple and genuine thank you or smile can make all the difference.
Research in positive psychology has demonstrated that gratitude is strongly related to greater happiness and fulfillment. Evidence shows that people tend to be happier and appreciate their lives when they experience feelings of thankfulness. Feeling grateful for what we experience in our lives has an amazing impact of how we feel about ourselves and the world around us.
Possible Health Promotion Solutions
Despite life’s many challenges, our attitude can play a large role in determining whether or not we feel grateful. “Gratitude is defined by your attitude towards both the outside world and yourself”, states Dr. Emmons. He suggests that people who are more aware of the positive aspects in their lives also tend to focus their attention outside themselves and towards others.
While giving thanks may seem natural, there are many small ways to increase one’s gratitude to make big changes in our personal happiness. Some simple ways to practice gratitude are keeping a gratitude journal, writing thank you notes, and practicing meditation.
By keeping a gratitude journal and listing a few things each day that you are grateful for has been shown to improve an optimistic attitude and help one feel better about their overall lives. Keeping track and noticing what you are grateful for has also shown to provide both better physical and mental health.
Writing thank you notes to people in your life you are grateful is also a way to boost happiness and nurture your relationships. By acknowledging others of their actions will help increase their motivation to continue being a person who you look up to. Although there are many ways to show gratitude, practicing mindful meditation is a way to focus on the present. The act of prayer and meditation is another way that has been practiced for many years and has been encourage by religious leaders and philosophers to cultivate gratitude. Mindful mediation is a way to be in the moment, to become calm, and at peace with your surroundings.
I recently watched an inspiring documentary that was titled, “Running the Sahara.” It followed three men from different parts of the world, each with different backgrounds and each with a unique history.
However, they all shared one passion – running. Through a series of circumstances, a challenge was presented to them which had never been accomplished before, to run the entire length of the Sahara Desert, west to east across the continent of Africa. The three men started in San Luis, Senegal, on the west coast of Africa with their feet in the Atlantic Ocean. The goal was to wet their feet wet once again in the Red Sea on the eastern coast of Egypt. Throughout the expedition, the men endured many obstacles and challenges. The first challenge was the distance. It was the equivalent of two marathons per day, every day until the expedition was complete, over sand and uncharted jeep trails. Second was the heat. The ground temperature would oftentimes reach 140 degrees farenheit.
Third, the cold nighttime temperatures would drop into the mid thirties. Fourth, the physical strain on the body which would include fatigue, sickness, cramping, dehydration, blisters. Fifth was the emotional stress they would have to endure. They missed their homes, loneliness, the stress of cultural differences and language barriers. Sixth was the mental strain. This included the thoughts of quitting, fatigue, and stressful thoughts of stepping on a stray land mine in politically unstable areas of Africa. Seventh was the additional environmental factors such as extreme wind and sand storms. Finally, there were logistical and geopolitical challenges of navigation and permission to enter certain countries along the way.
Despite all of those challenges and barriers, on February 20, 2007, the three men stepped into the Red Sea, just a few hours before sunset. Their quest had lasted 111 days and taken them through 6 countries: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya, and Egypt. The team ‘s GPS record indicated that they had traveled over 4,300 miles, calculating to 165 marathons. They fought through injury and extreme fatigue to reach their goal, which changed them forever.
The last days of the expedition were emblematic of the entire expedition, with highs and lows, camaraderie and solitude, and encounters with both the natural wonders and teeming societies of Africa.
Over their quest, the runners learned that it was necessary for them and their team to sometimes fight against, and sometimes avoid the elements served up by the Sahara, because the immeasurable power of the continent would likely always win out. They learned how to adapt and overcome the climate and surroundings as best they could, in order to make the steady progress that each of the 111 days required of their minds and bodies. Thus, they were able to save their energy, which led to their success as measured by their achievement and the depth of their experience.
Whether it was encounters with nomadic tribes of Niger or running through the wondrous Pyramids of Giza, the experiences endure. The children that received them with shouts of greeting and ran alongside them refreshed and renewed their vigor in every country. The lands they visited mixed natural beauty with the harshest living conditions: from the solitude of the expansive desert to the bustling heat of Dakar, Senegal, and the overwhelming crush of Cairo, Africa’s largest metropolis. Every location along the way provided its own challenge and held a unique reward for the three explorers and their team.
Description of an Example
I loved this story and its example of gratitude not only because of the adventure, but because it is also symbolic of each and every one of our lives. We are all tested everyday to overcome unique challenges and obstacles that are presented in our lives. By realizing what we are grateful for we can enjoy great blessings, successes, and experience great wonders and happiness in our lives. However, none of us are immune to the difficulties and challenges that will occasionally come our way, to make the journey difficult at times, and to test ourselves. The three runners depended on a camaraderie to help them through difficult times, just as we depend on one another, our families, our leaders, and our friends to help us through challenging times.
Conclusions and Future Recommendations
Gratitude has a powerful effect on many aspects of our lives including physical health, social relationships, and self worth. When we experience gratitude, we are mentally and physically building resilience needed to overcome all of life’s challenges and stressors.
Through Dr. Emmons research, he has found the people who regularly practice gratitude tend to have higher levels of positive emotions such as happiness, optimism, and joy.
Not only do these individuals experience positive emotions, but typically have stronger relationships and less feelings of loneliness and isolation due to the fact they are shown to be more forgiving, compassionate, and generous towards others (Stephenson, 2015). Highly gracious individuals report to feeling more alert, determined, enthusiastic, and are better and achieving goals.
As gratitude provides mental and social benefits, it additionally improves one’s physical health. According to research, those who show appreciation and gratitude have stronger immune systems, experience less pain, and sleep better. These individuals also tend to take better care of their health by exercising regularly and eating a health diet.
With all the research that has been done, cultivating gratitude is a simple way to achieve personal happiness and satisfaction in our lives. Instead of dwelling on the negatives in life, try switching gears and recognizing all the good that the world has to offer.