Thankfulness gets you more than the label “Ms Nice.” Would you believe you become more effective in meeting your goals? If you toss out a sincere “Thanks [insert grocery clerk’s name]” and suddenly you get those eggs packed as neatly as possible never to break again, it’s because grateful folks attract even more good turns. Life becomes more satisfying as your appreciation deepens, and it’s easier to get over the inevitable bummers. If you really get your gratitude groove on, you can even become thankful for the rough stuff, those grains of sand that become your pearls of wisdom. Bottom line, choosing and cultivating the grateful disposition is one of the most powerful life choices a person can make.
It’s not just happy talk. Robert Emmons, Ph.D., a University of California at Davis psychologist, is literally making a career of counting blessings. He has co-conducted several research studies on gratitude, in which one group simply records daily events that affect them; another notes the hassles and stressors; and a third lists things they are grateful for. Emmons has found that those who tracked gratitude:
- Exercise more often; feel better physically and better about life as a whole; are more optimistic.
- Are more likely to make progress toward personal goals in realms like work or school, relationships, and health.
- Are more alert, enthusiastic, and determined.
- Are more likely to help others with personal problems or offer emotional support.
Wow. How can results like that flow from just choosing to be grateful? “What we pay attention to becomes our experience,” Emmons says in his inspirational little book on the topic, Words of Gratitude for Mind, Body, and Soul. If that just sounds like a new wrinkle on the power of positive thinking, consider the power of negative thinking. Know any whiners? How about perennial victims? I know there have been times when I’ve complained too much, successfully blinding myself to all the plainly good things about my situation, and blamed others for my disappointments. With hindsight, I can see what a handicap that was. I didn’t invent this, of course; it’s part of the neurotic human condition. But a gratitude graft turns whiners into winners. Humble, thankful, gracious winners. And once we know how to guarantee a win-win situation you’ll never again forget to say thanks… and really mean it.