In honor of September being National Recovery Month and National Yoga Month, Gwen has decided to put out an "Attitude of Gratitude" challenge. The premise is that you post something that you are grateful for each day of September. Sounds like a wonderful idea. I believe in manifesting and sending positive energy into the universe. However, I am also an exceptional busy person and honestly it sounds like it could be extra unnecessary work. BUT! Being in recovery and involved in a yoga practice, it has been suggested that I say "yes" to all that I can. I can do this. I am just going to have to put in a little bit of effort to think more deeply than "I love lamp".
So, in order to prepare myself for this challenge I have done a little bit of research on Gratitude and stumbled upon some pretty powerful findings.
The first article I read was published by Harvard Health in 2011, they seem pretty smart and well funded. They highlighted a study by Emmons et al. where they compared three groups. Each week, one group wrote things they were grateful for, another wrote daily irritations, and the third wrote events that affected them (neutral). After ten weeks, they found that the group who created gratitude lists felt more optimistic, exercised more and had less trips to the doctor than the group that wrote about daily irritations.
Feeling a little more positive about the effects of gratitude I might receive from this challenge, I read another article. This Psychology Today Article mentioned seven benefits to gratitude that have been supported by research. The list includes; Opening the door to more relationships (apparently people want to be friends with you when you acknowledge their contributions), Improving physical health (when you appreciate your body you're more likely to take good care of it), Improving mental health (gratitude has been found to increase happiness and decrease depression), Enhancing empathy and reducing aggression (studies suggest grateful people are less likely to retaliate against others), Improving sleep, improving self-esteem (by appreciating others contributions instead of comparing yourself to them) and increasing mental strength (gratitude during trials increases resilience).
All of this sounds wonderful and is supported with literature. However, I am a skeptic by nature. I pursued a step further to search for some brain imaging studies. I found a study highlighted by an article in NY Magazine
where one group of people who were receiving treatment for anxiety or depression were allocated a 20 gratitude intervention at the beginning of their therapy session, while the other group of people receiving therapy for anxiety or depression did not receive this gratitude intervention. Researchers were able to see increased activity in the scanner in a region of the brain associated with empathy but in a unique pattern. While biopsych research in this area is still in it's infancy, results look promising.
All of these positive results made me feel more excited about participating in this challenge. However, there are lots of ways to cultivate gratitude such as; writing a thank you note, thanking someone mentally, keeping a gratitude journal, counting your blessings, praying, and meditating.
Be grateful and make the world a better place,