My friend Susan L. Schoenbeck, MSN, RN, recently wrote about the benefits of expressing gratitude that you must read. Focusing on the good does not mean that you have to be positive all the time. Learn how to live gratefully…

Benefits of Gratitude

When my friend Mary entered hospice care in another state, I wrote her a letter. In it, I told her I loved her. I reminisced, recalling a particularly funny and memorable time we had together. We were riding in the backseat of a car with a person who got lost but would not admit it. After going around in circles ten times, we got the giggles. We made it back home. But we never got in a car with the man again.

I sent my letter to Mary’s brother to give her in person. He said Mary read it, smiled, and laughed. Seeing how happy it made his sister to hold and read my note, my friend was spurred on to write a letter expressing how much he appreciated all his sister had done for him.

Mary kept our letters on her bed stand and asked her family to repeatedly re-read them. She traveled on, my gratitude for her friendship and her brother’s appreciation and love by her side. We both felt good expressing our gratitude. We will do it again. 

What is gratitude?

Gratitude comes from the Latin word “gratia” which carries the meanings of grace, graciousness, and gratefulness. It’s like giving thanks through recognizing and voicing how someone made one’s life better.


Health Benefits of expressing gratitude

Studies show that people who express gratitude are happier than those who focus on the downside of life. A study at the University of Pennsylvania measured subjects’ happiness using psychological measures. Results showed that when assigned to write a thank you note, the happiness scores of study subjects increased. Like Mama said, “Always saying thank you” is a good way to be.

Researchers at Wharton School of Business divided people soliciting funds for a university into two groups. The director of the department gave a talk to group A thanking fund-raisers and saying she was grateful for their work. Group B received no such appreciation. Group A that received the gratitude outpaced the group that did not by 50% in fundraising. Business says, “Telling workers ‘thank you’ is good business.”

A study at the University of California-Davis and the University of Miami divided subjects into three groups. All participants had to write a few sentences a week for ten weeks. One group was instructed to write about all the things that made them upset the previous week. Another was assigned to make a list of what happened the previous week for which they were grateful. A third group wrote about the previous week’s events in general. Participants who wrote about gratitude scored higher on optimism and reported less illness than those who recounted what aggravated them. Common sense says, “Practicing gratitude pays off.”

Side Benefits of Showing Gratefulness

  • People are attracted to people who are positive.
  • Mutual appreciation is the foundation for successful relationships.
  • We feel better about ourselves when we give thanks.
  • People who express gratitude report fewer aches and pains and better sleep.

A Ritual of Gratitude

Mary’s brother and I will send more letters to people for whom we are grateful. As we learned with Mary, even as one is making their journey onward, a simple note of gratitude can bring joy.

Susan L. Schoenbeck, MSN, RN

Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,

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