Turn your attention to your posture before beginning to read. Are your shoulders slumped, your back hunched, or your head tilted forward? Hours of sitting over a computer teach the body to slouch. Sit up, straighten your spine, and draw your shoulders back. This good posture may relieve pain and tension but is probably difficult to hold. The body can’t be forced into good posture but must learn it through a regular practice of functional movement just as it learned to slouch. If these habits are kept, then sitting up straight will become the body’s natural state, and chronic pain will fade away.

Joints and ligaments are not the only pieces of our person that play by these rules. It’s different from the body’s bones, but gratitude is another form of good posture. This is posture of another kind, involving the mind rather than muscle. A 2010 article about gratitude and well-being proposed a conception of gratitude as “part of a wider life orientation towards noticing and appreciating the positive in the world.” [1] There are multiple aspects of this “orientation.” They include an appreciation of others, a focus on positive assets, feelings of awe when faced with beauty, a focus on the positive in the present moment, and an appreciation rising from understanding that nothing is permanent. These components combine to create the good posture of gratitude.

The heart and mind must be taught to stand in this posture just as the spine must be taught to stand straight. The previously mentioned article states that for a person to have a grateful orientation, the aspects of such “would have to be easily experienced in a strong and frequent manner.” A 2006 article about increasing and sustaining positive emotion supports this by proposing that “to sustainably increase well-being, appropriate…practices must be performed with effort and habitual commitment.” [2] Thankfulness can’t be fostered by special lifts at the gym, but writing certain lists may fill your heart to the brim. If gratitude is your goal, start each morning by opening a journal, counting your blessings, and writing them down. You will find over time that standing in gratitude becomes second-nature.

Positive effects and affects will be had when the mind habitually thinks thankful thoughts. People who express gratitude learn to extract maximum possible satisfaction and enjoyment from their circumstances, to prevent themselves from taking good things for granted, and to positively reinterpret problematic experiences. A 2009 article about gratitude’s influence on sleep found indication that “gratitude causes a variety of positive [pre-sleep] cognitions” that in turn “have a positive effect on sleep…leading to superior sleep quality.” [3] Relationships may also soar in a self-stoking cycle of thanks. A 2012 article about how gratitude promotes relationship maintenance shows that people in relationships will be “more appreciative of their partners when they feel appreciated by them.” This appreciation is motivation for them “to remain committed…and therefore think and act in ways that will help them maintain their relationships.” [4] A grateful posture perpetuates goodness all around.

Remember this as you gather with loved ones this season: gratitude goes far beyond the dinner table…but sit up straight while you’re there.

By Jacob Perkins, Team RESTORE

 

Sources

[1] Wood, A. M., et al. (2010). Gratitude and Well-Being: A Review and Theoretical Integration. Clinical Psychology Review, doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.005.

[2] Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). How to Increase and Sustain Positive Emotion: The Effects of Expressing Gratitude and Visualizing Best Possible Selves. Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(2), 73-82.

[3] Wood, A. M., et al. (2009). Gratitude Influences Sleep through the Mechanism of Pre-Sleep Cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66(1), 43–48.

[4] Gordon, A. M., Impett, E. A., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (in press). To Have and to Hold: Gratitude Promotes Relationship Maintenance in Intimate Bonds. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, doi: 10.1037/a0028723