The Harvard Medical School defines gratitude as:
“a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power”
Most of us associate gratitude with saying “thank you” to someone who has helped us or given us a gift. From a scientific perspective, gratitude is not just an action. Gratitude is a positive emotion, which is really important because it serves a purpose.
It has been defined by many people throughout history. As a science that has to have measure effects, positive psychology defines gratitude in a way that shows that the effects of gratitude can be measured.
Positive psychologists contend that gratitude is more than feeling thankful for something. Gratitude is more like a deeper appreciation for someone or something, and produces longer lasting positivity.
So, what does this mean, really? Gratitude makes us feel more gratitude.
When we are feeling grateful, we will feel gratitude more often. And when we do feel gratitude, it will be more intense and we will hold onto it for longer. And we will feel gratitude for more things at the same time.
In five words – gratitude triggers positive feedback loops.
What Gratitude Does
Gratitude is a selfless act. Acts of gratitude are done unconditionally to show to people that they are appreciated. Gratitude is not given because people are looking for something in return.
But Gratitude does tend to be contagious. When we show gratitude, it prompts others to show it as well. In this way, people can use gratitude to form new social relations, or to build upon and make current ones better. Acts of gratitude can be used to apologize, make amends, or help solve other problems people may face.
Gratitude is also a powerful tool for strengthening interpersonal relationships. People who express their gratitude tend to be more willing to forgive others and less focused on themselves (DeShea, 2003; Farwell & Wohlwend-Lloyd, 1998). Giving thanks to the people who have helped you strengthens your existing relationships, promotes the formation of new relationships, and increases your relationship connections and satisfaction (Algoe et al., 2008; Algoe, Gable, & Maisel, 2010).
Toepfer, Cichy and Peters (2011) conducted a study where people were asked to write and deliver a letter to someone for whom they were grateful. Right after the task their the happiness levels and life satisfaction were dramatically impacted even weeks later. In the pursuit of happiness and life satisfaction, gratitude is showing a direct and long lasting effect thus the more gratitude we experience the happier our lives will be.
Without our physical health we cannot truly experience and enjoy all that life has to offer. Here again gratitude is playing a valuable role in influencing one of our most fundamental human needs. Research performed in 2015 showed that patients with heart failure who completed gratitude journals showed reduced inflammation, improved sleep, and experienced better moods. These measures dramatically reduced their symptoms of heart failure after only 8 weeks.
But the health benefits do not end there. It has been shown that a positive mental state creates a positive physical state, improving overall health and health outcomes.
We all know there is a link between the mind and body and here gratitude has a double benefit. The feeling of appreciation we feel when we are grateful helps us to have healthier minds and, with that, healthier bodies.
Aside from increasing well-being, psychology research has identified several other positive outcomes that are a result of practicing gratitude. One of these positive outcomes is reduced levels of stress (Krause, 2006).
Another is decreased levels of depression and anxiety (Kashdan & Breen, 2007). Of course, having lower levels of stress, depression, and anxiety contributes to higher levels of well-being.
The Role of Hypnosis
Take a few moments to write down a list of those things that you are grateful for before you go to sleep. Simply think of the positive things that happened during the day. There is a great benefit in writing things down, and enhanced connection between the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, and the body.
But what does that have to do with hypnosis?
By creating a list and shifting your attention and focus to the things that you are most thankful for, you are moving your focus away from the negative things that have occupied your thoughts. This mindfulness is a form of self-hypnosis.
Remember that you are what you say you are. The same rule applies to your thoughts. You will be, and feel, and act according to what you are thinking. So if you are thinking about the negative things that happened to you, you will feel and act and be more negative. Conversely, when you shift your focus to the positive events and your gratitude for them, your feelings, being, and actions shift to the positive as well.
In private hypnosis sessions, we often work with clients to release the negative emotions and feelings that are holding them back, and then reprogram them to better recognize opportunities for gratitude. Then end result is a more positive outlook a more positive life, and a greater sense of well-being. From this place, we can assist the client to move rapidly toward whatever goal they choose for themselves.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson∎Karen Gray is a Certified Hypnotist, a Registered Nurse, and the director of Green Mountain Hypnosis in Lebanon, New Hampshire. For more information on how you can use hypnosis to change your life, you can visit www.greenmountainhypnosis.com, contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (802) 566-0464.