Dr Gi Ming Chan
Gratitude unlocks all that's blocking us from really feeling truthful, really feeling authentic and vulnerable and happy – Gabrielle Bernstein
What is Gratitude?
The word gratitude is associated with a thankful response to a gift, event or someone's positive action towards us. A person with a high level of dispositional gratitude is able to appreciate others, feel awe when facing beauty and generally, seize the day because of their understanding that life is short. Gratitude may be more than a momentary emotion. It has been considered a trait, a disposition or a life orientation towards noticing and appreciating the positive in the world.
Gratitude helps us during difficult times as grateful people are better able to accept the ups and downs in life. It builds enduring resources (e.g. skills for showing appreciation, social bonds), that function as reserves that can be used in difficult times. When a person is faced with negative situations that may narrow the range of potential actions and thoughts, gratitude may facilitate coping with negative emotions and restoring cognitive flexibility.
Gratitude is listed as the second most frequently felt positive emotions. It may fulfill the ''undoing'' function and serve as a resource for regulating consequences of difficult life events.
Grateful personalities direct people's attention towards the positive aspects and away from the negative aspects of life, making them more able to accept what comes in their way and protecting them from losing hope and meaning of life.
There is a positive association between gratitude and subjective well being, and a negative association with psychological distress in studies done with breast cancer patients and caregivers of persons with dementia.
How does gratitude affects our health?
Gratitude can greatly affect our health. A positive mental attitude is great for the heart. In addition, it has shown to decrease the risk of heart disease, depression, stress and anxiety, improving your overall health.
One study found that about 85% of breast cancer survivors suffer from PTSD symptoms. Many of them engage in negative cognitive processes such as depressive rumination that includes negative and intrusive thoughts. 42 breast cancer patients reported reasons why they felt grateful that day for two weeks. The study showed that listing the reasons for gratitude led to higher levels of psychological functioning, greater perceived support and greater use of adaptive coping strategies. Positive emotions, including gratitude, ''undo'' the consequences of negative events. It is possible that gratitude is an ''undoer'' of distress related to breast cancer treatment. Daily gratitude as a strategy for prioritizing positivity serves a convincing scenario, suggestion that active expressing gratitude might be an effective strategy to increase daily functioning.
In a study done measuring gratitude among women struggling with infertility and going through IVF, they around that women who reported higher on a gratitude questionnaire also reported lower levels of fertility-related stress. Gratitude may neutralize an apparently negative experience such as infertility, with positive episodes, making the total experience more palatable.
One study with 186 men and women, average age 66, who already had some damage to their heart, either through years of sustained high blood pressure or as a result of a heart attack or a heart infection. They found that the more grateful people were, the healthier they were. They experienced less depressed mood, slept better and had more energy. In addition, interestingly, they also found that such individuals had less inflammation.
In another study, with 40 participants who kept a gratitude journal for two months, writing a few times a week, they found that their risk of heart disease decreased.
Grateful individuals have an easier time accepting the peaks and troughs in life or are better at using ''letting go'' coping. Grateful individuals tend to attribute the good things that exist or happen in their lives to others, be it a higher power, a supportive spouse, friend or family member. Instead of taking these benefits for granted, grateful individuals perceive the benefits as an altruistic gift and the benefits as more valuable.
How to incorporate into our daily lives?
Take a moment each day to appreciate what’s around you!
Gratitude diary: daily writing of 2-3 things you're grateful for yourself or someone else
Sharing gratitude with someone else
Using a Gratitude Intervention to Improve the Lives of Women with Breast Cancer: A Daily Diary Study by Joanna Sztachanska, et. al.
Gratitude in infertility: a cross sectional examination of dispositional gratitude in coping with infertility-related stress in women undergoing IVF by Bobo H.P. Lau, et. al.
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