I’ve been celebrating the month of November with Facebook posts about “gratitude” (see www.facebook.com/accentonwords). My favorite quote on the subject comes from American author Melody Beattie: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
What Beattie says is actually backed up by empirical research, including studies by scholars of positive psychology (see sources below). In fact, more than one study shows that adopting an attitude of gratitude can improve both psychological and physical health.
The opposite is also true. When you focus on the negative, on what irritates you or what you have to complain about, your mental and physical health can be impacted negatively.
Of course, this is not new wisdom. Read this quote from the Roman orator and statesman Cicero from sometime in the first century BC:
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues,
but the parent of all others.
And, both the Hebrew Bible (from as early as the 10th century BC) and the Christian New Testament (from about 2,000 years ago) are full of exhortations that people should be thankful for the good things in their lives.
A grateful attitude can also help people overcome depression. Plus, 12-step programs, successful in helping people overcome addiction, recognize the importance of gratitude. JoAnn Campbell-Rice, in a blog post for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, wrote, “In active addiction, I had no clue what enough was, so noticing quiet contentment takes practice. To savor moments of connection, beauty and inner peace—such as laughter before a meeting, a hug or word of care afterwards, or someone honestly telling her story—is the joy of lifelong recovery.”
Above all, grateful people are happier. I have found that to be profoundly true in my own life.
Here’s one last piece of wisdom about gratitude to contemplate as you enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday:
Sing and make music from your heart … always giving thanks … for everything. — Ephesians 5:18
In searching for a focus for this blog, I finally alighted on the idea of WORDS. For a site called “Áccent on Words,” it makes sense. As an editor and writer, I work with words for a living. Words are important to me. But really, they’re important to everyone, and even more so in an age when we’re constantly bombarded with them and continually consume them through social media, television, radio and what we choose to read. My aim is to choose a particular word or phrase as the focus of each new blog post and talk about why our words matter. — Deborah Jackson
Alkozei, A., Smith, R., & Killgore, W. D. S. (2018). Gratitude and subjective wellbeing: A proposal of two causal frameworks. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19, 1519–1542.
American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. (2009, December). Editorial: Extending the tradition of giving thanks. Recognizing the health benefits of gratitude. Critical Care Nurse, 29(6), 12-18.
Campbell-Rice, J. (2018, October 9). Exercising gratitude. Retrieved from https://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/articles/campbell-rice/exercising-gratitude
Krause, N., Bruce, D., Hayward, R. D., & Woolever, C. (2014). Gratitude to God, self-rated health, and depressive symptoms. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 53(2), 341–355.
Lin, C. C. (2019). Gratitude, positive emotion, and satisfaction with life: A test of mediated effect. Social Behavior and Personality, 47(4), 2–8.
Singh, B., Salve, S., & Shejwal, B. R. (2017). Role of gratitude, personality, and psychological well-being in happiness among young adults. Indian Journal of Health and Wellbeing, 8(6), 423–435.
Toussaint, L., Sirois, F., Hirsch, J., Weber, A., Vajda, C., Schelling, J., Kohls, J., & Offenbacher, M. (2017). Gratitude mediates quality of life differences between fibromyalgia patients and healthy controls. Quality of Life Research, 26, 2449–2457.
Yadav, V. (2015). Gratitude and its correlate: An empirical study. Indian Journal of Health and Wellbeing, 6(4), 453–455.