While many emotions and personality traits are important to well-being, there is evidence that gratitude may be uniquely important. As we approach Thanksgiving, many folks reflect on things for which they are thankful.
Grateful people are happier, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives. They have more positive ways of coping with the difficulties they experience in life, being more likely to seek support from other people. Grateful folks also have less negative coping strategies, being less likely to try to avoid the problem, deny there is a problem, blame themselves, or cope through substance use. Grateful people sleep better, and this seems to be because they think less negative and more positive thoughts just before going to sleep.
The experience of gratitude has historically been a focus of most religions. Gratitude has been said to mold and shape the entire Christian life. Martin Luther referred to gratitude as “The basic Christian attitude” and today it is still referred to as “the heart of the gospel.” As each Christian believes they were created by a personal God, Christians are strongly encouraged to praise and give gratitude to their creator. Christian gratitude is regarded as a virtue that shapes not only emotions and thoughts but actions and deeds as well.
Gratitude may also serve to reinforce social behavior. For example, one experiment found that customers of a jewelry store who were called and thanked showed a subsequent 70 percent increase in purchases. In comparison, customers who were thanked and told about a sale showed only a 30 percent increase in purchases, and customers who were not called at all did not show an increase. In another study, regular patrons of a restaurant gave bigger tips when servers wrote “Thank you” on their checks.
As we busy ourselves with preparations for a big turkey dinner and a busy holiday season, let us pause to be truly thankful for a roof over our heads, a warm bed, food to eat, friends and family. The Carter Family sang “Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side. Keep on the sunny side of life. It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way. If we keep on the sunny side of life.” There’s great truth in those lyrics. Just as there is a “dark and a troubled side of life” there is also a “bright and a sunny side too.” It’s our choice. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let us all strive to focus on our blessings and keep a spirit of gratitude in our hearts.