Why Gratitude?


Raised hands catching sun on sunset sky. Concept of spiritualityThis week I wish to draw attention to the notion of gratitude. For years I have taught what has become referred to as the four-corner philosophy for self-fulfillment. Those four corners include forgiveness, gratitude, self-responsibility, and service; but today I wish to focus on gratitude. Specifically, what is the purpose of having a gratitude attitude?

Gratitude is something that typically is the topic of pastors and counselors. However, there is a growing body of science that is beginning to show the many benefits available as a result of a gratitude attitude.

Emotion

Gratitude is an emotion that reduces anxiety and ameliorates stress. Gratitude can enable the optimal operation of your endocrine and immune system. Studies have shown that grateful people are less materialistic and therefore less disturbed by what is called, “Keeping up with the Joneses.” There is less enmity and envy in the life of a grateful person when compared to similar people who do not practice gratitude as a part of their lives.

Gratitude can be as simple as counting blessings instead of burdens and this leads to a stronger subjective sense of well-being. Gratitude has also been shown to have a positive correlation with wellness, to say nothing of the improvement in everything from relationships to finances. The simple truth is that from a purely pragmatic perspective, a gratitude attitude leads to a happier life.

Morality

That said, there are also some moral implications derived from gratitude, as most religious and spiritual leaders suggest. I mean, in a broader sense, is it immoral to be ungrateful?

Now admittedly gratitude is often used as a moral motive to encourage pro-social behavior. For example, failing to recognize or appreciate a gift is deemed more than just unacceptably rude—it’s often viewed as immoral.

Studies have shown that people are much more likely to express gratitude when their feelings are public. So gratitude takes on all sorts of social implications. Does that mean that it’s ethical for a culture to expect gratitude in order for one to maintain a social standing in a society?

Enculturation

We are all enculturated in ways that demand reciprocity in one way or another. I suppose the question of the ethical merits to any system that so imposes rights and duties on each of us that have nothing to do with lawfulness, is another subject. For now, the benefits to both the individual and society at large have been shown to demonstrate the purely practical side inherent in cultivating gratitude. As such, I choose to be a bit of a Pollyanna. To that end, I begin each day with a “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Then I smile—a big good old smile, because I know that my brain doesn’t know that I might be faking that smile. No—the brain simply responds to the facial expression and releases endorphins, the bodies own natural opiates, and guess what—I feel better right away. In my mind, that’s the real meaning of the phrase, “Fake it ‘till you make it.”

As always, thanks for the read and I’d love your thoughts on this one.

Eldon Taylor

Eldon Taylor

Eldon Taylor
Provocative Enlightenment
NY Time Bestselling Author of Choices and Illusions
www.eldontaylor.com