Photo By: Wari Om

Thanksgiving 365

5 Reasons to Cultivate Gratitude Every. Single. Day.

With the holidays comin’ in hot, your email inbox—rather, the entire internet—is about to fill up with “what are you thankful for?” missives and manifestos. And sure, it’s nice to spend a day with friends and family, enjoying a lovingly crafted meal and celebrating everything we hold dear. Usually. But as with most of our modern red-letter days, when we’re up to our elbows in casseroles and houseguests, it can be easy to lose sight of the day’s deeper meaning. 

But as yogis, we’ve all experienced the transformative effect of linking a series of individual events into a conscious practice—from mindfulness and meditation to asana or even healthy eating. So, on the cusp of the single day our culture sets aside for observing gratitude, your friends at Sedona Yoga Festival would like to invite you to make this feeling a part of your heart’s daily travels. Here are five compelling reasons to try it. It’s good for you…we promise!

1. Gratitude makes you happier—it’s SCIENCE!

If you’re already in the habit of keeping a gratitude journal, good for you…literally! According to research conducted by U.C. Davis psychology professor and leading gratitude expert Robert Emmons, people who take time to ponder the things for which they’re thankful experience more positive emotions, act with greater compassion and generally feel more alive.

In his two best-selling books (linked at the end of this post), Emmons recommends a simple gratitude journal as a great way to kick off the practice. While you might feel as if you’re always grateful for your partner, pet, home or health, the act of getting specific about the things you cherish—every day—can actually rewire your brain to focus on the positive.

The more granular you get, the better it works…and the more variety you have to keep the practice fresh day after day. For example: instead of writing “I’m thankful for my health,” try to dig a little deeper with something like, “I’m thankful for my strong legs, which carried me through the beautiful and inspiring Claude Monet exhibit at the museum today.” 

2. Your gratitude makes others happier, too.

Here’s a little more science for you: researchers studying positive psychology concluded that a single act of gratitude, such as saying “thank you” or expressing to a friend what they mean to you, produced an instant 10% boost in happiness and 35% decline in depressive symptoms. It’s incredible, isn’t it? Even better: the effects of these acts lasted about 3–6 months—so, while tiny efforts can have a deep effect, they DO bear repeating for lasting impact.

Photo By: Wari Om

3. Gratitude gives love more staying power.

With regard to the lasting effects mentioned above—as it turns out, they’re even more powerful when applied to intimate relationships. In a study conducted by UNC Chapel Hill psychologists, researchers learned that expressing gratitude to one’s romantic partner created an environment of mutual appreciation. Participants noticed that their partners became more responsive to their needs as well as more satisfied with the relationship overall. And in this case, the afterglow stuck around even longer: about 6–9 months. Hello, win-win!

4. The TYFSAK Effect: Gratitude is good for business.

Before Target came along and made everyone happier whilst simultaneously emptying our wallets (neat trick, guys) much of America’s one-stop bargain shopping was done at K-Mart. You might say gratitude was a company policy; all employees were required to wear oversized buttons emblazoned with the mysterious acronym “TYFSAK.”

While these buttons originally served as a reminder for the checkout clerks to say, “Thank you for shopping at K-Mart,” eventually the buttons began to reinforce the message. Unknowing patrons would ask about them, which would trigger the expression; those who knew the acronym got a visual reminder. The bottom line: everybody got thanked, and people kept coming back.

More recently, researchers found that gratitude can also have a profound effect in the modern workplace. Particularly for those in leadership roles, expressing gratitude for a job well done has been proven not only to boost employees’ self-worth and confidence—but also to increase trust between colleagues and help to create a more collaborative environment.

5. Finally, gratitude is good for your health. 

Experts agree that gratitude is a social emotion—it requires that we acknowledge the good in the world, and affirm that much of this goodness comes from outside ourselves. These affirmations lead to the myriad of social benefits we’ve mentioned, from higher levels of happiness to lower levels of loneliness and beyond.

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