University of California psychologist, Robert Emmons, has spent more than a decade researching the benefits of giving thanks and has now written a book on the topic: "Thanks! How Practicing the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier". Emmons is a leading practitioner in "positive psychology" and editor in chief of of "Positive Psychology", an industry publication.
He says "We wanted to balance our focus and be able to help everyone, including high-functioning individuals, this field is an antidote to the traditional, nearly exclusive emphasis on 'negative psychology' that was focused on fixing problems like trauma, addiction and stress".
Emmons and colleague, University of Miami psychology, Professor Michael McCullough, conducted studies on volunteers who were instructed to keep a daily or weekly "gratitude journal," or to perform regular self-guided "gratitude exercises."
In the journaling group, participants wrote down at least one thing for which they were thankful. The "control" groups recorded neutral life events - or life's hassles - respectively.
During the course of separate three-week and 10-week periods, here's a sampling of what the studies showed:
Overall, Emmons found, "The practice of gratitude can increase happiness levels by about 25 percent."
What's more, the benefits were long-lasting: Just three weeks of journaling can create an effect that lasts six months or more.
Neuroscience and brain expert Richard Davidson, has also demonstrated that this activation of the brain's frontal lobes can positively affect objective physical conditions, such as cortisol levels, heart-rate variability and brain-wave patterns.
Giving thanks is good for your health, but it is also a part of most spiritual practices as well. Christians give thanks through prayers and meal blessings (grace), through reading the Bible and singing songs of praise. By the simple term Amen ('verily, truely, so it shall be, God's will') They believe this is glorifying to God.
Within Islam they use the saying“Alhamdulillah” as a form of giving thanks (it means 'All praise and thanks belong to God') this is used in supplication to Allah and also as a greeting, the saying 'masha’Allah' ('As God has willed it') is used to give thanks for another's blessings, they believe by using these saying they protect themselves from diverging from the path of God.Since Buddhism is non-theistic, they don't give thanks to any God, but they try to develop an attitude of gratitude towards all the factors in their lives that contribute towards their fortune and success.
Within Paganism we celebrate Harvest Home, a ritual for the first harvest of the year. Thanks are given by chanting, dance and song. There may also be a time of silence for reflection and gratitude. Pagans may also say a food blessing, prayers and other forms of gratitude at this time.
However gratitude and the giving of thanks should not be limited to one or two celebrationary times of the year, it is a practice that should be cultivated every day, enhancing our mundane life with our spiritual beliefs. When you are in a sincere state of gratitude your energy (vibrational resonance) is one of acceptance and harmony. You resonate and as a result project a much higher vibrational frequency which is exactly what attracts to you the events, conditions, and circumstances that you desire.
Now you have a better understanding of why giving thanks is important to your health, and how some religions go about showing gratitude, how can you include this practicein your daily life?
Create a Ritual of Gratitude: If you want to express your thankfulness to your Patron Deities for all the good things in your life, why not hold a Ritual of Gratitude? By celebrating the things you are thankful for, you send a message out that acknowledge how fortunate you are. As Pagans we are aware that what we send out comes back to us, so by being thankful for our blessings, we honour them and open ourselves to further blessings.
Keep a Gratitude Journal: Why not mimic the experiments of Dr Emmons, take a few moments every day to sit down and think about your blessings and record them in a gratitude journal each day. You can make the process as simple or as detailed as you like, the point is to remind yourself of your blessings and to take a few moments to honour them.
Carry a Talisman Associated with Thankfulness - When you're feeling underappreciated at work, you're stuck in traffic with a bunch of honking horns, or you're frazzled because once again you forgot to take something out for dinner, it's hard to remember the things in your life for which you are grateful. Craete a Talisman of thankfulness!
Share your Thankfulness - Remember when you were a child, and your mum made you write thank-you notes after every birthday? (do mums still do that?) There's a reason she made you do that, when people do things for us, they need to know that they're appreciated. If someone has done something nice for you, let them know how much it meant to them. Send them a note, call them, or tell them in person. It doesn't have to be complicated, just a simple, "Thank you for [insert what you are thankful for]" is all that is needed. Just those few words can help brighten someone's day, and let them know that their words or deeds didn't go unnoticed.
Random Acts of Kindness - Ever do something nice for someone else, just for the heck of it? One way to cultivate gratitude is by doing kind things for others, without any hopes of compensation. Do something good for someone else, simply for the enjoyment they will recieve. With any luck, they'll take it a step further and do something nice for someone too. Just by performing these random acts of kindness, you can trigger a "gratitude chain" into motion!
Pay It Forward - When someone does something nice for you, don't "pay them back" rather "pay it forward" and do something nice for someone else. The basic premise of 'Paying it Forward' is this - "an obligation to do three good deeds for others in repayment of a good deed that one receives. Such good deeds should be things that the other person cannot accomplish on their own. In this way, the need to help one another can spread through society, creating a social movement with the goal of making the world a better place".
Remind Yourself of Your Good Fortune - Are you happy to have your health, a job, a family who loves you, and a roof over your head? Make a collage or poster of images that remind you just how lucky you are. Don't want o hang a poster up on the walls? Use sticky-notes instead -- write one thing you're grateful for on each one, and hang them in places you'll see them, like over your desk, on the microwave door, the bathroom mirror. Each time you're reminded of your good fortune, you'll feel thankful -- and that can help bring more good things your way!
A Mindset of Charitable Giving - When we have good fortune in our lives, it's easy to be thankful. However, many of us feel even better about our good fortune if we can share it with others. Find a way to make a difference. If you're grateful that you've got food to eat every day, why not organize a canned goods drive to help a local food pantry? Donate your time to local service agencies, like domestic violence shelters, hospice agencies, or even pet rescue operations, depending on where your interests lie. It feels good to help others out, and your efforts might be just the thing that someone else needs to pull them out of a hole. Remember the times in your life when you needed help, and pay forward the favor. Find a need, and then find a way to fill it.
Set Goals of New Things to Achieve - For many Pagans, there are times of the year when we ritually shed the old baggage and focus on new beginnings. Because of this, goal-setting can become an important aspect of our spiritual development. When we set ourselves a goal, we are basically saying to the universe, "This is my will," and that's how the magick begins.
Learn From Your Mistakes- It's easy to screw things up. But the great thing about making mistakes is that we can learn from them. The inventor Thomas Edison tried over 3,000 times to create the first lightbulb. When someone asked him about these failed attempts, he said, "Actually, I didn't fail 3000 times. I found 3000 ways how not to make a lightbulb." Every step we take is part of the journey, and sometimes we might take the wrong path, but as long as we can learn from the experience, it has been a positive experience. Learn from your mistakes, and show your thankfulness even for the things you messed up. After all, those help shape you as much if not more than the good experiences do!
Recognize Those Who have Inspired You - Is there someone who has touched your life in a profound way? Perhaps a teacher who took you under their wing when you were a child, or a co-worker who mentored you when you were sure you'd lose your job. Maybe your parents set a great example to you of the sort of adult you wished to be someday, or someone saved you from a bad decision you almost made. It's important to recognize those people who have dramatically impacted our lives - and it's also important to remember that we may well inspire someone else some day. Be sure to thank the people who have impacted you. Show your gratitude to them, and perhaps someone else will show the same to you in the future. If you are unable to tell them, then simply write them a letter and burn it allowing the gratitude to disperse into the universe.
Express Gratitude for Who You are - So often our gratitude is expressed outwardly and inwardly we condem, and abuse our spirits. How often do you tell yourself you are fat, ugly, boring, weak or simply not worthy of anything? Show yourself some gratitude for all that you are, for all your positive aspects - be grateful for your cheerful smile, your twinkling eyes, your hearty laugh, your soft skin. Try to give gratitude to the parts of yourself you usually comdem - instead of saying I hate my big arms - say I love that my arms have soft skin, instead of saying I hate my laugh, say I love it that I have things I can laugh about! Remember the Gods created you just as you are and they find joy in you because you are unlike anyone they have created before, who are we to disparage what the Gods saw fit to give us? Love yourself and be grateful the Gods chose to give you life.