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Can feeling thankful or having gratitude for the good things in your life be the solution to stress?  Well, quite possibly yes it can!

Many studies have shown that people who keep a gratitude journal or have a daily practice of feeling thankful and adopting the “gratitude” mindset experience many health benefits. The latest study was conducted by Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California at Davis and leading researcher in this growing field, termed “positive psychology.”

Emmons’ findings, along with those from other researchers such as Lisa Aspinwall, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, suggest that grateful people may be more likely to:

  • take better care of themselves physically and mentally
  • engage in more protective health behaviors and maintenance
  • get more regular exercise
  • eat a healthier diet
  • have improved mental alertness
  • schedule regular physical examinations with their doctor
  • cope better with stress and daily challenges
  • feel happier and more optimistic
  • avoid problematic physical symptoms
  • have stronger immune systems
  • maintain a brighter view of the future

With all those benefits, who wouldn’t want to try it?  To get started giving thanks, consider integrating some of the steps below into your daily life.

Focus Attention Outward – your attitude plays a large role in determining whether you can feel grateful in spite of life’s challenges. According to Emmons, gratitude is defined by your attitude towards both the outside world and yourself. He suggests that those who are more aware of the positives in their lives tend to focus their attention outside of themselves.

Be Mindful of What You Have – you may assume that those with more material possessions have more to be grateful for – research suggests otherwise. Edward Diener, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois, found that a high percentage of affluent people in Japan report low levels of life satisfaction, just as those living in poverty in India do. These findings suggest that it’s not how much you have, but how you feel about what you have that makes the difference.

Keep a Gratitude Journal – recording what you feel grateful for in a journal is a great way to give thanks on a regular basis. Emmons found that those who listed five things they felt grateful for in a weekly gratitude journal reported fewer health problems and greater optimism than those who didn’t. A second study suggests that daily writing led to a greater increase in gratitude than weekly writing.

Change Your Perceptions – it’s not actually a challenging situation that is upsetting. It’s how you perceive the situation. The next time you find yourself complaining about life’s hassles, see if you can mentally “change your mindset” so you view the situation differently.

A few of us either keep gratitude journals or have it on our goals for the New Year. On a personal note, I have kept a gratitude journal for the past year and a half and have to say, it has allowed me to view challenges an opportunity to learn something I need to learn or alter the way I think about it. Give conscious gratitude a try in the New Year and let us know your thoughts.