Attitude of gratitude leads to joy, happiness, well being

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Last month, we showed gratitude for the heroes in our lives. Perhaps you thanked Mom on Mother's Day (at least for your sake, I hope you did) or remembered those who died serving our country on Memorial Day.

Lately, many of us have become increasingly aware of all the heroes among us and are expressing gratitude by just saying "thank you" to a police officer, nurse, teacher doctor, grocery clerk or firefighter. In any case, the simple act of saying "thank you" can not only brighten someone else's day but also improve ours. Let's find out why.

The word "gratitude" is derived from the Latin word "gratus," which, depending on the context, translates to "grace," "graciousness" or "gratefulness." Many of us have heard at some point in our lives that being grateful for the blessings and relationships in our lives will make us happier and healthier, and as it turns out there is some scientific evidence to support this.

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher and author with several books on the subject of gratitude has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.

His findings also make the argument that expressing gratitude can allow people to block toxic emotions (envy, resentment, regret), celebrate the present, be more stress resilient and strengthen social ties and self-worth.

Another big win is that every time a person expresses gratitude, dopamine (our "feel good" chemical) is released by the brain as a reward. Hence, the more you practice, the more you are rewarded.

Martin Seligman, a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, has said, "When we take the time to notice the things that go right, it means we're getting a lot of little rewards throughout the day."

Sounds simple right? Well, just remember, like anything else worth doing, it will take practice and mindfulness in the moment.

How can you get started? Journaling is one of the best exercises to build your gratitude muscle. I find the most effective thing for me is to keep a journal by the bed, and first thing in the morning write down five things that I'm thankful for.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and you might have an opportunity to do it only once or twice a week, or can come up with only one or two things - for example, no HotWheels on the stairs this morning (hooray!), coffee was still lukewarm after getting kids ready for school ( Yessss!).

Don't overthink it. Just write what comes to mind. The important part is that you just get started. The sooner you do, the sooner the dopamine starts flowing.

Holly Wright of Bluffton is a Reiki Master, reflexologist, NASM certified personal fitness trainer, and co-owner of Trinity TheraSpa in Moss Creek Village. trinitytheraspa.com

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