Since we now know that practicing Gratitude can actually improve our health, let’s consider the three stages of gratitude and how we can experience each stage and benefit from its rewards. First – Feeling grateful for the good things in your life; Second – Expressing your gratitude to the people who have made your life better; and Third – Adopting new behaviors as a result of interacting with those who have helped you. Deepak Chopra has described the health benefits of practicing gratitude:
All of us have experienced the first stage — we have felt grateful that something good has happened, often in the context of escaping a threat like a disease diagnosis that turns out to be a false alarm. To make this feeling more than a passing moment, you need to make the “attitude of gratitude” more continuous. Keeping a brief journal is all it takes to trigger the health benefits of gratitude—a good start for anyone.
Stage 2 is more challenging. It’s hard to reach out to someone else, especially because many people think that opening up and expressing your appreciation makes you more vulnerable. It’s easier to stay inside your shell. But when you express gratitude to someone else, an emotional bond is formed, and emotional bonding is one of the key traits of truly happy people. Some of the earliest mind-body studies showed how loneliness and isolation—the very opposite of bonding with others—led to decreased health and a higher risk of mortality. Now it’s time to reverse our focus and emphasize the positive side of the equation, putting emotional bonding high on the list of self-care.
Stage 3 is the most powerful because it changes people’s futures. When your gratitude leads to showing more sympathy, less judgment, and greater appreciation for life itself, you are setting the stage for years of positive reinforcement. By adopting gratitude as your default position, so to speak, you tell your brain that positive input is going to far outweigh negative input. Mixed signals lead to mixed results. By being consistent in your attitude of gratitude, you set down a blueprint that over time leads to brain changes with farseeing benefits.
Clearly, the way of gratitude is one of the most natural paths to wholeness because body, mind, and spirit are affected at every level almost effortlessly; give it a try.