Scientists who study gratitude and thankfulness are proving that people who see life as a gift and who have a sustained feeling of appreciation for what they have are living longer with greater health, happiness, and success—but why?
What is it about feeling grateful that causes people to live more vital, energetic, enthusiastic and successful lives? How can simply saying “thanks” for the blessings we are “granted” (instead of taking them for granted) improve children’s grade point averages, improve sleep by 30%, and reduce blood pressure and heart attacks? What makes the emotion of gratitude so special, that those who possess it have better marriages than those who don’t? Hint: gratitude is an emotion that not only makes you feel good, but it also leads you to want to do good.
To begin to understand the great benefits that grateful people enjoy, we need to have a clear definition of what gratitude really is in contrast to its opposite—ingratitude. A clear definition is, in itself, a powerful tool. My definition of gratitude: A relationship-strengthening good feeling stemming from you having been granted something of value from G-d from which you have benefited. It is a person’s choice to remember to see everything in life as a gift that was somehow lovingly bestowed upon him by the Master of the Universe.
Why is gratitude a relationship-strengthening emotion? It’s because when we thank G-d for the blessings that He sends us, either directly or through others, we are strengthening our relationship to Him and the other people or institutions through which G-d sends us benefits. We are acknowledging G-d as the primary ultimate “giver” and ourselves as the humble receivers of his Goodness. When we say “thank you” to G-d we are actualizing our primary purpose which is to come closer to Him. By thanking Him we are also honoring G-d. When we honor G-d we are acknowledging his Greatness, Superiority and total authority over us. With our “thanks” and appreciation of what G-d does for us, we actually “elevate” and reveal more of G-d in the world—another common mission for which we were all created.
One of the greatest gifts of feeling grateful is that it protects us against feeling ungrateful which leads people into all kinds of negative emotions and sins. The arrogant ungrateful person doesn’t acknowledge G-d and so he doesn’t have to thank G-d for anything. He either doesn’t acknowledge G-d’s existence or even if he does, his arrogance causes him to forget G-d most of the time. This leads to complaining, resentment, anger, sadness, greed, bitterness and the many sins that these negative emotions give rise to. Gratitude has to do with memory—it’s about remembering to say “thank you” to G-d.
Next week I’ll be writing more about how we can remember to see life as a gift. I’ll be giving you a sampling of the strategies and tips that are helping so many others. Here’s one example: Continue reading here...