5 Ways Gratitude Brings Balance and Grace to Your Life

If you’ve ever told yourself anything like, “I need to exercise more” or “I wish I could stop the negative chatter in my head” but you’ve never quite accomplished either, have I got a smart and simple solution for you! Gratitude.

Yep, scientists have proven that gratitude can have measurable effects on our overall wellbeing and very specific benefits to our physical and mental health.

This is the perfect time to start (or refresh) a habit of gratitude: a daily practice of words and deeds that generate a sense of goodness our lives. With Thanksgiving Day just a couple of weeks away, giving thanks is naturally on our minds. But more than that, the holiday season is for many of us a stressful, non-stop time, while others may experience bouts of seasonal depression or anxiety.

Gratitude to the rescue!

Research proves that professing and feeling gratitude improves one’s emotional state, life experiences, health and relationships. The word comes from the Latin gratia (grace, favor, goodwill). So practicing gratitude literally brings grace into our lives. It helps us connect to something outside of ourselves—whether it’s other people, nature, or a higher power.

Without going all science-y on you, here are five surprising benefits that gratitude brings to your life and your health.

 1. Grateful people exercise more, have fewer aches and pains and generally feel healthier than other people.

In a study by noted gratitude expert Dr. Robert A. Emmons, participants were asked to write just a few sentences a week about things they were grateful for. Another group wrote about things that annoyed or irritated them, and a third group wrote about events in their life (not specifically positive or negative). Participants that focused on gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives compared to the group that focused on irritations.

 2. Practicing gratitude can decrease a range of negative feelings, from regret and resentment to envy and frustration.

 3. You’ll sleep better. Spending just 15 minutes a night before bedtime writing in a gratitude journal was shown to improve sleep in a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. It makes sense if that’s the last thing your brain is thinking about, instead of a news program of the latest doomsday headlines, sports, or a movie.

 4. Gratitude can reduce aggression and increases empathy and compassion, according to a study by the University of Kentucky in 2012. Those who ranked higher on gratitude scales exhibited greater sensitivity and empathy toward others, even when given negative feedback, as well as a reduced desire to seek revenge.

 5. Gratitude can actually boost your immune system! By promoting feelings of optimism, being thankful stimulates the production of red blood cells which in turns boosts our immunity to disease.

All of these benefits are great, but like any practice the question is, how do you start and more importantly, stick with it? The good news is, there are a lot of simple and practical ways to incorporate more gratitude into your daily life and routine. What’s important is the intention to feel gratitude for someone or something, and to express it in some way.

One of the easiest ways is to cultivate a habit of writing a thank-you note a week to someone who has done you a good turn or provided a great service. My friend Dawn Mena has five ways to write thank you’s that will create raving fans. What a great start!

For more ways to experience the everyday grace of gratitude, I’ve put together 20 simple ways to practice gratitude. It’s surprisingly easy to make thankfulness a part of your daily life and routine and reap all those benefits!

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Why not just try and see what happens when you experience and express gratitude? What have you got to lose?

I’d love to hear your results and what effects you see in your life and wellbeing with a gratitude practice. Share your experiences on the Facebook page—and thank you in advance!

Featured image (c) 2013 Shay Cochrane

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Gratitude: It’s Just Good for You!

Gift of Gratitude

There is so much in the world to be upset about right now. Truly, deeply, justifiably upset about. And I  believe there is just as much to be thankful for. Truly, deeply, wildly thankful for.

I bet if you stopped and took a nanosecond to think about it, you’d come up with at least 100 things in your life you’re grateful for.

Personally I find that practicing gratitude makes me feel better. Whether it’s finding a penny in a parking lot and lifting my eyes to the sky and saying, “Thank you!” or commenting on someone’s social media post that impacted me, or a thousand other situations large and small–expressing the feeling is a gift to myself and the other person.

Today I’d like to share two resources with you. The first is a worthy cause that is helping children in Guatemala by showcasing some of their precious artwork on a series of thank-you note cards. Check out their Indiegogo campaign at www.SayItWithGratitude.com. Founder Scott Colby says on the site that his research into the powerful and positive effects of gratitude on us as humans is what convinced him to share this knowledge with the world. Please hop over and pick up one of his packages–you can write your first thank-you note to yourself for doing something good for yourself and others.

The second resource is my new Kindle version of “101 Ways to Say Thank You.” I wrote the book a few years ago and recently decided to share it more widely with the world. I’m happy and humbled to say in the first day on the market, it was the #1 Hot New Release in etiquette books on amazon.com!

In it you’ll find a well-phrased “thank you” for 18 of life’s occasions and situations (from getting married to getting a ride to the airport) and more than 70 specific gift items. I also included ten common business thank-you letters as a bonus. It’s available this month only for a promotional price of 99 cents. You will never be at a loss for sincere words of appreciation and gratitude again.

Between note cards for a great cause and 101 thank you’s, you’ll be all set to begin your own personal journey of gratitude. Sounds like a great way to start the fall holiday season to me!

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Tips for International Gift Giving

Hi Deanne, 

© Deyan Georgiev - fotolia.com

© Deyan Georgiev – fotolia.com

I have a question about gift giving. I am going to Manila and I am meeting with potential book buyers, distributors and publishers and I am also meeting with some government officials. I want to give the coordinator a gift – but what?

Thanks!

Rebecca K., Albuquerque, NM 

****

Rebecca,

Great question, and congratulations on your opportunity! How exciting!

When visiting a foreign land, it’s always a good idea to do a little research on area customs for etiquette and gift giving. Plus, there are the practical aspects to consider, such as packing and presenting the gifts.

A rule of thumb I like to follow, no matter where I’m going, is to give specialties from my locale, or souvenirs from where I live. Things like locally-made foodstuffs and candy, souvenir pens, postcards and keychains are easy to transport and won’t break the bank. As a businessperson, small promotional products with your company logo could also work.

I did some research on gift giving and business etiquette in the Philippines and it seems like my rule of thumb will apply—in particular, it sounds like candy is usually a big hit in the Filipino culture.  In fact, there is a word in the Filipino language for such souvenirs: pasalubong, which means “homecoming treat.” The best advice I found is to stick to candy, as any other type of food might be construed as an insult that the recipient is too poor to properly provide for the household.

With this in mind, look for locally-produced confections, such as something from Señor Murphy in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. (The chile pistachio bark looks yummy!) Additional items might include a photography book of the Sandia Mountains or Sante Fe, or Native American pottery. Look for something that highlights and showcases your area. Souvenir items like this will give your recipient something to remember you by, long after the candy is consumed!

If you are lucky enough to be invited to someone’s home for dinner, flowers are the perfect hostess gift, but avoid chrysanthemums and lilies.

Two more things to remember about gift giving in the Philippines: presentation counts, and gifts are opened in private. To the first point, use brightly-colored wrapping paper—there are no restrictions on color—and lots of festive ribbons, even a special embellishment. (Note: The TSA has the right to unwrap your gifts if, when scanned, the gifts if they set off alarms or need further inquiry. Consider traveling with the items unwrapped and wrap them at your hotel.)

To the second point, if you receive a gift, it is a major faux pas to unwrap it in front of the giver. Likewise, do not expect your recipient to open her gifts in front of you.

Finally, because you’re meeting with government officials in an effort to secure business, it’s important to keep in mind the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Essentially, it prohibits giving a thing of value to any foreign government official for the purpose of improperly influencing that official in order to obtain or renew a business opportunity. In other words, no bribes. The Department of Justice offers the following guidance in its free Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (download it here):

“A small gift or token of esteem or gratitude is often an appropriate way for business people to display respect for each other. Some hallmarks of appropriate gift-giving are when the gift is given openly and transparently, properly recorded in the giver’s books and records, provided only to reflect esteem or gratitude, and permitted under local law.”

So, keep the gift items nominal in value (no luxury cars!) and keep a record of the gifts. The Department of Justice doesn’t pursue small gifts unless they are part of a pattern of giving with an intent to influence. Consult the Guide for more information.

Good luck, and have a great trip!!

 

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How to Write a Gift Note

When should you include a card with a gift? What should it say? Is a store-bought card sufficient?

Unless you are in a situation where your recipient will know that the gift is from you, such as a casual birthday lunch or a dinner for two, a gift requires some sort of tag or card so that the recipient will know who to thank. Self-adhesive “to/from” labels suffice at Christmas, but remember to use a small gift card, a note card with a personal message, or a store-bought card appropriate for the occasion when giving a gift any other time of the year.

I think many people default to a pre-written, store-bought card because they’re not sure what to say, and they’ll hunt for the card that says just the right thing. And that is fine for most occasions. But even with a store-bought card, it’s nice to include a little personal message. A good rule of thumb is to mention the recipient by name; remark about something you cherish, remember or enjoy about him or her; and if appropriate, include a little something about the gift and why you chose it for the recipient. Here’s an example:

Lauren – Thank you for being such an amazing friend! For your birthday, I was inspired by our trip to the Caribbean last year. When I saw the enclosed I immediately thought of you – bright, fun and sparkling! Enjoy! Love, Deanne

Including a personal message on the gift card is an ideal way to make the gift that much more special. For my 21st birthday, my Aunt Lillian had my great-grandmother’s coral beads (which were her great-grandmother’s beads) re-strung with my grandmother’s pearls. Tucked into the box was a handwritten note from my aunt explaining the history of the coral beads, reminding me that I am the seventh generation to wear them. It’s more than 20 years later and I still keep the note with the necklace, and I’ll pass it on to my niece when I go.

If you’re still unsure of what to say or how to say it, there are several resources to help, including Lifetime Encyclopedia of Letters and Crane’s Blue Book of Stationery, each available on amazon.com.

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