What is the essence of true gratitude and why should you care? It turns out that the simple act of giving thanks can change the chemistry in your brain. But not all gratitude is created equal. Sometimes it is just better to look on the darker side of life.
In his 2013 book, Gratitude Works!, pioneering gratitude researcher Robert Emmons, PhD, shares several counter-intuitive research findings that challenge gratitude’s reputation as a “sunbeams and rainbows” sort of activity.
1. Gratitude can be serious stuff. Emmons reports that viewing a bleak melancholy film actually increases the feelings of joy and satisfaction with one’s life — more so than watching a comedy.
2. Reflecting on hard times can be healthy. Research shows that comtemplating sorrow and failure makes us more grateful than reflecting solely on past successes. “Recall a breakthough you had in what was once an insurmountable problem,” Emmons suggests, “and be grateful for that breakthrough.”
3. It’s good to dwell on death-at least a little. Occasionally reflecting on one’s own inevitable demise increases a sense of gratitude. Emmons reports that imagining a near-death experience increases people’s appreciation and decreases overall unhappiness.
4. Picturing loss can leave us feeling that we’ve won. Contemplating life without someone or something that you really love increases gratefulness and happiness more than picturing yourself with it. Try imagining life without your spouse, a beloved pet, or a familiar place, and you’ll get it immediately.
Genuine gratitude comes from the pervasive sense that we are full, complete, whole — and maybe even lucky! And who really who could ever have too much of that? Especially now, during this difficult time.
by Lisa Vallejo Sorensen, UVAC Communications Director