Gratitude seems to be somewhat of a buzz word these days. It appears on t-shirts, rustic home decorator boards, books, articles, etc. This is a good time of year to reflect on what it means to us individually.

I may feel grateful for something when something good happens or when I avoid an embarrassing situation. Gratitude, on the other hand, is intrinsic, and for a lot of people it is a part of their faith. Gratitude is present regardless of and irrelevant to any promise of an outcome. My gratitude isn’t dependent on a desired result, it is simply a part of my daily consciousness. When I wake up in the morning I have tremendous gratitude I get another day, even before anything has happened.

Scientists are discovering links between gratitude and health, and ultimately living longer. Dr. Alex Korb, a neuroscientist at UCLA says that “gratitude boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine, which can act as an antidepressant. In fact, he connects gratitude with overall happiness”. In his book, The Upward Spiral, he explains this connection:

“Everything is interconnected. Gratitude improves sleep. Sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves your mood. Improved mood reduces anxiety, which improves focus and planning. Focus and planning help with decision making. Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives you more to be grateful for, which keeps that loop of the upward spiral going. Enjoyment also makes it more likely you’ll exercise and be social, which, in turn, will make you happier.”

For me, being grateful is followed by a “thank you” while gratitude is a constant state of being. Gratitude and gratefulness are reflections of each other that create ripples of happiness when embraced.

Material for this blog post was taken from writings by Valorie Kondos Field, aka Miss Val.

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Madison Senior Center and a link back to the original post.