When we are on our death bed, we never wish we had bought more material possessions. We often wish we had more experiences. People talk more about their experiences than their material possessions. Material gratification goes down very quickly, whereas experiential gifts last much longer. There are so many rich and beautiful stories that come from experiences. They become a bigger part of who we are. They connect us more to others.
In fact, we are the sum total of our experiences. Whenever we look back and think of what we are grateful for, we find that we are always more grateful for experiences than we are for our material possessions.
Following on from my previous reflection on the power of gratitude, I would like to share my thoughts on the health benefits of gratitude. The consistent practice of gratitude has remarkable effects on our health and longevity. We have a much better sense of well being, much lower anxiety and depression levels, and higher levels of optimism. We also feel much more socially connected, and much less likely to be angry. Our sleep quality is much better. Our resting Blood Pressure is lower. Rigorous scientific research has demonstrated that our levels of good cholesterol (HDL) are raised, and those of bad cholesterol (LDL) go down. Furthermore, our Serum Creatinine levels are also kept low, keeping our kidneys in good shape.
One of the best ways to practise gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. You can write 5 things you are grateful for every day, and then notice the effects on your health and happiness levels over time. In fact, you can decide to do this as a family, and keep gratitude lists together. You can also write a gratitude letter to someone who means a lot to you. Kids can be encouraged to write gratitude letters to their teachers or mentors. I think it’s very powerful when you go to the person and read out the letter you have written. When you do this, it establishes a meaningful social connection, and that leads to an experience of joy. With kids, you can encourage them to tell you three things they are grateful for every night before they go to bed. Throughout the day, they will keep thinking of the things they are going to talk about.
The practice of gratitude is therefore a skill that can be acquired through training, and yields wonderful results!