One of the things I struggle with the most is living with a healthy dose of gratitude. This isn’t to say that I’m ungrateful for all that I have – my wife, my friends and family, my health, my home, my job –however, far too often I take these things for granted and feel as if I am entitled to them.
(Do I sound like anyone you know?)
My sense of gratitude begins where my sense of entitlement ends.
Without a doubt, this lack of perpetual gratefulness often leaves me feeling stressed and believing that what I have simply is not enough. Going beyond that, I don’t think it takes a leap of faith to see how this could slowly erode my health over time.
In fact, more and more studies are showing the positive health effects gratitude can have on people. For example, here’s what the Harvard Medical School’s Mental Health Letter had to say about gratitude in their November 2011 article, In Praise of Gratitude:
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
The article then goes on to talk about a study where participants were directed to write a few sentences each week:
One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.
It seems pretty clear that the overall benefits of gratitude, to include health benefits, are pretty astounding.
Why are you telling us this?
Seeing as this is a website dedicated to being Paleo, you’re probably asking why in the world I’m writing about something like this. As I’ve said before, I believe that when you fully “go Paleo” you adopt not just the diet, but the lifestyle, which includes healthy doses of community, minimalism, and gratefulness.
This isn’t to say that our Paleo ancestors didn’t want more out of life. In fact, I would argue that this desire to “want more” is what helped to further the human race. It’s good to want more.
However, I would also argue that an unchecked desire to want more while forsaking all that you have is pretty destructive. That’s what we’re trying to avoid by having a healthy sense of gratefulness.
How to become more grateful
It’s one thing to know you need to be more grateful and it’s another thing to actually practice being grateful. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to get from knowing to practice.
What I’ve found to be most helpful is ending each day by writing three things that I am grateful for. Here’s the kicker: none of the things I write can be a repeat of something I’ve written before.
I keep a simple spiral-bound notebook next to the bed, and log everything right before I go to bed. At first, this was relatively tedious, but once you get a week or two in you start to see how many reasons you have to drop the ‘tude and just be thankful.
Fake it ‘til you make it.
Once it really sinks in, you’ll seek out opportunities to be grateful. You’ll tell people that you’re thankful for them even though they may drive you crazy. You’ll stop looking around with envy and start looking around with a little more compassion for others with less.
I’m certainly still a work in progress, but I’ve noticed that once I made a conscious effort to be more grateful, my life has improved.
So, if you’re anything like the person I described in the first paragraph of this post, I certainly recommend you take a shot at this, too!
Here are some cool links if you’re interested in learning more about the health benefits of being grateful: