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SCIENTISTS are finding that gratitude, when exhibited as a regular part of life not only helps explain a high sense of well-being but also can be fostered in simple ways to increase happiness and fulfillment, says the March 2015 issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter.

In an age of plenty, it’s easy to want more but, somehow, more is never enough — rather than fulfillment, discontent becomes the norm, leading to frustration and general dissatisfaction, unless one were to replace desire with gratitude.

Everyone feels thankful at times — such as after receiving a gift or, if a person came to your aid when you needed help, or for a loving family or a rewarding job.

However, transient moments of thankfulness aren’t enough to explain the wider concept of gratitude — especially as it correlates to a higher sense of well-being.

It isn’t just an emotion but a way of being that focuses on noticing and appreciating the positive aspects of life and acknowledging that the sources of goodness are frequently outside the self.

A grateful approach enables you to be happy despite the imperfections of life.

While studies of gratitude are still in the early phases, available evidence suggests that an attitude of gratitude has a number of benefits in terms of health and well-being — individuals who are habitually grateful tend to experience:

• Lower risk of mental health disorders — Surveys showed that a disposition toward thankfulness predicted a decreased risk of major depression, generalized anxiety, phobia, nicotine dependence, alcohol and drug abuse, and bulimia, as well as helping individuals overcome trauma.

People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who scored high on gratitude had better daily functioning than did those with PTSD who scored lower, regardless of PTSD symptoms, says the health letter.

• Greater happiness — A link between gratitude and being in a good mood — feeling happier and being more satisfied with life — is supported by a number of studies.

• Increased sense of fulfillment — Gratitude has also been linked to self-acceptance, independence from peer pressure, personal growth and control over your circumstances.

• Positive relationships — Also, evidence suggests that gratitude is strongly related to building and maintaining strong relationships, through factors, such as willingness to forgive, empathy, desire to share and help, and seeing the good in others.

• Better sleep — Investigators have found that gratitude can improve how well you sleep — In a study of about 400 individuals, 40 percent of whom had sleep problems, researchers found that grateful individuals slept better, stayed asleep longer and had less difficulty falling back to sleep.

Grateful individuals sleep better because a) they worry less and have fewer negative thoughts before falling asleep and b) they focus on positive things before falling asleep, which protects the quality of their rest.

Dr. Amid Sood of the Mayo Clinic has written several books on training your brain to decrease stress, improve resilience and live meaningfully — here are some sample suggestions from his book, The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-free Living:

• Start your day with gratitude — As soon as you wake up, think of five individuals in your life to whom you are grateful — picture them in your mind and send them a silent thank you.

You start your day on a much more positive note, by making gratitude your first thought in the morning.

• Be thankful for simple things — Throughout the day, mentally note the things you often take for granted but that make your life easy — including electricity, running water, clean clothing or a cup of coffee.

Appreciate patches of green grass or wide-open sky, adds the health letter.

• Look for the positive in the negative — Try to see your struggles as necessary forces that focus your energy on what’s really important — be thankful that you have a flexible mind that allows adversity to help you learn and grow.

• Acknowledge your riches — If you’re feeling bad, count your blessings — realize that there are likely millions of individuals who don’t have their health and freedom to move about, a working car, warm home, steady job and children and grandchildren who are safe.

• Keep a gratitude journal — As you think of the individuals and things you’re grateful for, write them down — do it before you go to sleep so that your last thoughts of the day are positive and your rest is peaceful.

Refer back to the journal on a rough day or when you need a reminder of how transformative thankfulness can be.

• Say thank you — Express your gratitude to others in words and deeds — Say thank you in person for a kind action, or write a note to express your gratefulness for having a person in your life, concludes the health letter.

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