Recently Russell M. Nelson asked all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to “—just for the next seven days—to turn social media into your own personal gratitude journal.”
So what is there about gratitude that would make it so important for millions of people to be asked to think about what they are grateful for and express it to the world?
Gratitude soothes our feelings
In the uncertainty and chaos of today’s world emotions are very active but are not well managed. Gratitude can help with this problem by providing a feeling of calm and reducing stress.
Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions
Many of our natural and normal emotions become toxic when they are not managed well. And they have a major negative effect on the mind and the body. But gratitude can help reverse that by letting go of the toxicity. In fact, it can even decrease symptoms of depression.
Gratitude increases our happiness
When we step outside of an experience to review, appreciate, and give gratitude for what happened, we intensify and lengthen the happiness that it brings. And as we begin to use gratitude more, our ability to see the good in any situation increases. That increased awareness of good also adds to our happiness.
Gratitude increases our empathy for others
To have empathy for others, we must be able to recognize and identify with the feelings, thoughts or attitudes they are experiencing. It doesn’t mean we evaluate what is going on in them, it just means that we recognize that those feelings, thoughts or attitudes exist. Gratitude increases our ability to see things for what they are and so our empathy increases.
Gratitude promotes healthier relationships
Gratitude helps us look for what is good and not focus so much on that which is not good. When we look for what is good in a relationship, it reinforces the good behavior of each person in the relationship and so the relationship improves.
Gratitude fosters resiliency in difficult situations
Resilience in people is the ability to recover from misfortune or change. Being able to bounce back from disappointment is a significant characteristic of successful people. Gratitude helps us deal with adversity better so our resilience increases.
Gratitude helps improve health
Gratitude has a long lasting effect on our brain. As expressions of gratitude are repeated, our brain makes the effects of gratitude part of its operating procedure, which improves our general well-being, provides additional healing power in our mind, and even helps us sleep better.
Gratitude provides us with a greater perspective on life
The effects of a statement of gratitude are fast-acting and will help us even if the it is not shared. As we express our gratitude, our overall view of life begins to change – it allows us to see ourselves as being better. In fact, it is the foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.
These are some of the benefits of gratitude that have been discovered in recent research. As we begin to improve our recognition of things to be grateful for and our expression of our gratitude, there are a few other things we ought to know.
Gratitude is like all types of human strength: we have to “Use it or lose it.”
James E. Faust said, “It seems as though there is a tug-of-war between opposing character traits that leaves no voids in our souls. As gratitude is absent or disappears, rebellion often enters and fills the vacuum. . .I refer to rebellion against moral cleanliness, beauty, decency, honesty, reverence, and respect for parental authority.”
If we are not regularly expressing gratitude we will not only lose the benefits those statements bring to us, but we will likely exchange other positive characteristics for their opposites.
Gratitude is a description of a successful mode of living. So if we express gratitude sincerely enough, and frequently enough it will become a rule that our mind will automatically follow and we will become a grateful person. And a thankful heart will open our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us.