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What does gratitude mean to you?
Gratitude is an important part of Positive Psychology research. Positive psychologists agree that actively practicing gratitude in day-to-day life increases feelings of happiness and results in longer lasting positivity. Gratitude does not only mean being thankful for good fortune; gratitude is an emotion that encompasses feeling grateful for the tangible as well as the intangible goodness in our lives. Practicing gratitude also connects us to something larger than ourselves, such as other people or G-d.
The benefits to practicing gratitude in our everyday lives are many. Practicing gratitude allows us to remain optimistic and hopeful in all circumstances, which increases our quality of living. Positive Psychology research shows that practicing gratitude can also help us enjoy good experiences, achieve improved health, remain strong in the face of adversity, and build strong relationships.
Judaism is a religion which actively teaches practicing gratitude. Essentially, the practice of Judaism encompasses living in a state of gratitude. Blessings of gratitude are recited throughout the day.
The concept of practicing gratitude dates back to the matriarch Leah, who gave thanks when her forth son, Yehuda, was born. Hence the name Yehuda, meaning gratitude, became the name of the Jewish nation: Yehudim, translated as those who acknowledge and give thanks.
The concept of practicing gratitude in Judaism is called hakarath hatov, literally “seeing the good”. In order to be grateful, a person must first learn how to recognize the good in everything . Dr. Robert Emmons defines gratitude as a "sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life" (Emmons & Shelton, 2002). Practicing gratitude not only allows us to see the silver lining or the cup half-full, but also increases our wellbeing.
What does gratitude mean to each of individually? Experiment by using positive psychology researched strategies to help increase feelings of gratitude, such as:
Keeping a gratitude journal helps families feel more connected. Positive psychology research has argued that hedonic adaptaion or adapting to happy events is short-lived. In other words, individuals are only happy for a short time after a positive experience. Gratitude counteracts hedonic adaptation allowing individuals to reamin content long after a happy event.
Emmons, R. A., & Shelton, C. M. (2002). Gratitude and the science of positive psychology. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 459-471). New York: Oxford University Press.