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According to several sources of information, including scientific research, the simple practice of gratitude (whether written in a journal or verbal acknowledgement) has profound benefits on one’s health and well-being. 

Some authorities refer to gratitude as the “parent of all virtues.” In our busy and stressful modern world, it can be easy to forget to slow down and acknowledge the many benefits/bounties that many of us already possess such as shelter, food, and love. In our efforts to achieve more and progress, we may at times succumb to pessimism and lose sight of these simpler and more essential gifts. 

Gratitude is a simple practice that can have a profound effect on our health and wellbeing. Positive effects linked to gratitude include social, psychological and physical benefits which increase as one makes gratitude a regular part of their routine. 

According to the neuroscientist Glen Fox P.h.D., a gratitude expert at Southern California, the more one practices gratitude, the more one experiences benefits. “The limits to health benefits are really in how much you pay attention to feeling and practicing gratitude,” states Dr. Fox. “It’s very similar to working out, in that the more you practice, the better you get. The more you practice, the easier to feel gratitude when you need it.”  

Gratitude has well-established neurobiological effects, including the brain regions associated with interpersonal bonding and stress relief. Fox grew deeply interested in gratitude after his mother’s death from ovarian cancer. During her illness, he would send her studies on the benefits of gratitude in cancer patients  (and she kept a gratitude journal in her final years). In another example, 92 adults with advanced cancer engaged in mindful gratitude journaling.  After just seven days, those who kept a gratitude journal had significant improvement in measures of anxiety, depression, and spiritual wellbeing (Source: theepochtimes.com https://www.theepochtimes.com/health/the-profound-health-benefits-of-being-grateful-4127489)

An additional essential aspect of gratitude is the notion of underserved merit. One recognizes that they have no claim on the gift or benefit they received; it was freely bestowed out of compassion, generosity or love. One philosopher of ethics thus defines gratitude as “the willingness to recognize the unearned increments of value in one’s experience.” The theological term for this is grace.  So we have another trio of terms that go together: grace, gratis and gratitude.  “Grace is unearned. It is a free gift. If you believe in grace, you believe that there is a pattern of beneficence in the world that exists quite independently of your own striving and even your own existence.” (Robert E. Emmons, P.h.D.  Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier).  

All major religions – Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, etc. commend gratitude. The Holy Qoran states, “If you are grateful, I will give you more.” A traditional Islamic saying states, “The first who will be summoned to paradise are those who have praised God in every circumstance.” 

In Buddhism, Buddha is purported to have exhorted his followers in this fashion. “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful.”  

Christianity emphasizes the value of gratitude in the entire religion. Gratifude and thanksgiving are central motifs to the New Testament.  And finally, the Hindu religion (believed to be the most ancient), emphasizes the value of gratitude in all scriptures including the Bhagavad Gita. 

Scientifically speaking, practicing gratitude and positive thinking on a daily basis, throughout the year can change your brain and your life.  Scientists conducted a study in 2008 to measure the brain activity of people thinking and feeling grateful. They summarized that gratitude can boost neurotransmitters, serotonin and activate the brain to produce dopamine. 

One can write several books on the topic of gratitude. In view of brevity, gratitude is truly the “parent of all virtues.”

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