Gratitude can be defined as being thankful and showing appreciation to others. It can be powerful and life-changing. In fact, research has shown that it leads to feelings of optimism and enthusiasm. Other health benefits may include lower depression and anxiety levels, better resilience in coping with traumatic events, improved interpersonal relationships, better sleep, and improved overall health.
Forgiveness also plays a role when it comes to gratitude. According to research, when you can learn to forgive, your levels of depression, anger, and stress will decrease. This then translates into stronger feelings of optimism and compassion, making it easier for you to show your gratitude toward others. The benefits of allowing yourself to forgive are similar to those that come from showing gratitude. These include a reduction in stressors such as backache, muscle tension, dizziness, and headaches.
Sandy Walker of the American Counseling Association, and Mary Hayes Grieco, director and trainer of the Midwest Institute for Forgiveness Training both use a multi-step forgiveness approach. Looking at Grieco’s eight step model, it goes as follows: Step 1- make a decision to change; Step 2- release of your emotions; Step 3- release of the expectations you have; Step 4- restore your boundaries; Step 5- open up to the universe to get your needs met in a different way; Step 6- receive healing energy from a spirit or a higher power; Step 7- send unconditional love to those who have injured you and release any unrealistic expectations you had for them; and Step 8- recognize the good in the person or the situation.
According to Grieco, once you are able to complete these steps, you may find that you have an increased tolerance, you may be more content, and less in need of control. Walker adds that you may also find yourself to have a better sense of relief and peace.
The beauty of gratitude is in its simplicity. It doesn’t require much effort. Those who are grateful show thanks to others around them who contribute to their personal well-being. They enjoy the small things in life and find pleasure in them. And they see gratitude as a two-way street -- they experience it and also bestow it upon others. Writing a personal thank you note or just saying thank you when you receive something- even an email, making a donation to your favorite charity, telling a friend or colleague that you really enjoyed talking with them, give your place in line at the checkout to the woman behind you with children, and thinking positive even in times of duress all go a long way because gratitude comes in all shapes and sizes. What will you do today to show your gratitude?
For more information on gratitude and resiliency, please click here. You can also listen to a webinar. As always, please contact your Clergy Assistance Program at 1-800-433-7916, or you may email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact Pastoral Care and Counseling or email Shauna Summers the PCC Coordinator.