Modern science has proven, as most spiritual traditions teach, that gratitude is a positive, health producing emotional state.
Leading spokesperson for the new Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, PhD, says too much emphasis on the bad events in your past and insufficient appreciation and savoring of the good events are the two culprits that undermine serenity, contentment, and happiness.
Gratitude helps you express yourself, enjoy life, be satisfied, and connect with something and/or someone beyond yourself.
This amazing resource costs you nothing; it only requires that you choose to express it.
What’s Your Gratitude Quotient?
Leading researchers, Michael McCullough and Robert Emmons developed a simple survey to assess your level of gratitude. You can use it as a barometer to measure the effectiveness of different techniques you may choose to use and/or to simply compare with others.
The Gratitude Survey
Rate each statement below on a scale of 1 to 7:
1 = strongly disagree
2 = disagree
3 = slightly disagree
4 = neutral
5 = slightly agree
6 = agree
7 = strongly agree.
___ 1. I have so much in life to be thankful for.
___ 2. If I had to list everything that I felt grateful for, it would be a very long list.
___ 3. When I look at the world, I don’t see much to be grateful for.
___ 4. I am grateful to a wide variety of people.
___ 5. As I get older, I find myself more able to appreciate the people, events, and situations that have been a part of my life history.
___ 6. Long amounts of time can go by before I feel grateful to something or someone.
- Add up scores for questions 1, 2, 4, and 5.
- Reverse your scores for items 3 and 6. For example, if you scored a “7,” give yourself a “1,” if you cored a “6” give yourself a “2,” etc.
- Add the reversed scores for items 3 and 6 to the total from Step 1.
This is your total gratitude quotient-6 score (GQ-6). This number should be between 6 and 42.
Although this test is not an exact science, it does provide a way to assess your current level of awareness of this positive emotion.
Below, you can compare your score to 1,224 other adults who took the survey as a part of a feature on the Spirituality and Heath website.
A score of 35 or below indicates you scored in the lowest 25 percent.
A score between 36 and 38 indicates you are in the lower 50 percent.
A score between 39 and 41 indicates you are in the top 25 percent.
A score of 42 indicates you are in the top 12.5 percent.
Boost Your Gratitude
Write a Gratitude Letter
Write a one-page letter or testimonial to an important person in your life. Reflect on the person and identify their attributes or actions that have had a positive influence on you and/or others. Then write about them in you letter containing your sincere appreciation. Deliver the letter, if possible, personally to the person.
This type of letter writing is often used in research studies. For example, Dr. Steven Toepfer at Kent State University enlisted students to write letters expressing their gratefulness to people who had positively impacted their lives.
The students wrote one letter every two weeks over a 6-week period. The only instructions were that they had to be positively expressive, required some insight and reflection, were nontrivial, and contained a high level of appreciation.
After each letter, students completed a survey to gauge their moods, satisfaction with life and feelings of gratitude and happiness.
Toepfer reported, “I saw their happiness increase after each letter, meaning the more they wrote the better they felt.” The survey scores also improved.
Seventy five percent of the students said they intended to continue to write similar letters even after the study was completed.
Keep a journal of the happenings or simple life events that you felt grateful for throughout the day. Follow these steps:
- Set aside 5 minutes each night just before going to bed.
- Prepare a note pad with one page for each day to cover 14-days.
- Think back over the last 24-hours and write down on separate lines, five things you are grateful or thankful for. It can be anything from “waking up in the morning” to “seeing a flower,” to “a kind word of a friend or loved one.”
- After keeping your journal ever night for 2-weeks, retake the gratitude test.
If you find your score is higher or you just enjoy this exercise make it a regular daily routine.
Most spiritual traditions teach that mealtime is a time to connect with the sacred. This happens with giving thanks to plant and animal food sources, God, or the natural order of the universe. Make mealtime a time to nourish both the body and the soul.
Expressing thanks at mealtime has many healthful benefits:
- It shifts your awareness from the busyness of the day to being present for your meal.
- When more aware and present for your meal you are likely to eat less and enjoy it more.
- You enjoy the good, nurturing feeling of being grateful.
Your past and present consists of a rich tapestry of events and experiences; some positive, some neutral, and some negative. Your past lives only in your memories.
If you focus on the negative experiences or thoughts, you live a life of sorrow, regret, hurt or whatever negative emotional experience your mind recalls. You tend to feel victimized or stuck in an “unfortunate life.”
If you focus on positive experiences or thoughts, you live a life joy or whatever positive emotions your mind recalls. You tend to feel more powerful, more in charge of your life, and happier.
HeartMath offers tools and techniques to help too.
See the “HeartMath” article to find out more about this technique.
Gratitude is always with you — it is at your beckon call. Call upon gratitude to improve the quality of your life.
Kent State University (2008, November 27), “Want To Be Happier? Be More Grateful,” ScienceDailyMartin E. P. Seligman, PhD, Authentic Happiness, New York: The Free Press (2002).