What is all the rage about Gratitude?

I must admit, that I can be a skeptic when I hear the term “gratitude”. Gratitude can be defined as, “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” The idea of encouraging gratitude or keeping a gratitude journal has been offered countless times in trainings and workshops I have attended as a way of helping patients to heal and help them see that the glass is half full rather than half empty.  Writing down what you are grateful for instead of what you don’t have or feel angry about, is supposed to help shift your overall sense of thinking.  For example if you miss the bus, instead of thinking “Arggg! It always leaves just when I get there”, you might think “Well now I have time to read my magazine, or put my head phones on and meditate.”  So this is a pretty big switch to make, and many a skeptic might think impossible.  However, I am beginning to think there might be something to “gratitude” as a real tool for healing. 

Most of us are programed to go with the negative, the “I’m always late,” “I always say the wrong thing,” etc.  And that will never completely change, but what can happen is noticing that you say those negative things to yourself.  Popular magazines and media have all been abuzz about the scientific research that gratitude does indeed work; they can even see it in the brain.  In numerous scientific studies, scientists have been able to see areas of the brain light up when gratitude is expressed, causing a “happy” or “euphoric” feeling.  The reality is you cannot feel gratitude all the time or for everyone or everything, but there is always something to be grateful about.  And writing simple expressions of gratitude down in a journal, or a notebook or phone can bring some momentary joy, and as research seems to be proving long term joy as well, and who does not need more of that?

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