actual gratitude regardless of what they do or don’t have.”
Emmons defines gratitude as “a trait, a state, an attitude, a way of coping, and a virtue all rolled into one. Gratitude is an affirmation of the goodness in one’s life and the recognition that the sources of this goodness lie at least partially outside the self,” he adds.
Perhaps the only thing harder than defining gratitude is actually practicing it.
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“Busyness, forgetfulness and a sense of entitlement all diminish possibilities for gratitude,” says Emmons, who suggested the people “take life ‘as granted’ rather than ‘for granted.’ Instead of saying ‘I have to do this’ try saying ‘I get to do this.’ Sense that you are lucky or graced rather than deserving of good fortune. Repeat the phrase to yourself ‘I am gifted.’ ”
Mills suggests a more concrete approach: Write it down.
As part of his study, Mills asked participants to keep a journal of things they were grateful for. After two months of journaling, their heart health improved, including reductions in circulating levels of inflammatory biomarkers and improved heart rate variability.
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“Journaling about gratitude is a reliable exercise. The more things you can identify, the more your perception of well-being begins to change,” Mills says.
After a while, people become so grateful they no longer need to write down their feelings, he says.
“Gratitude journaling can lead to a more permanent transformation in a person’s mind and psyche,” Mills adds. “They sense gratitude more continuously and then they stop journaling because they’ve made the transition — they’ve changed how they view their moment-to-moment life and the world around them.”