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It’s easy to be grateful when everything’s going your way, but feelings of gratitude can quickly disappear when you or everything around you is in upheaval.

Robert Emmons believes that we benefit the most from being grateful when we’re in crisis mode. Emmons, a University of Southern Maine alumnus who is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, has been researching gratitude for more than 15 years, has written numerous papers and books on the subject, and has come to realize its many benefits.

“In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize,” he said. “In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times.”

There are three steps we can take to start us on the path to finding our own gratitude, according to Emmons, who is considered the world’s leading expert on gratitude.

The following are excerpts from “The Little Book of Gratitude,” which he wrote in 2016.

Robert Emmons is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. He is considered an expert in gratitude. Credit: Courtesy of Robert Emmons

Joy: look for the good

“To feel gratitude, we have to be attuned to the good in our lives, and this gives rise to joy, which is the pure and simple delight in being alive.

“Joy is especially treasured after a time when sorrow or grief has dominated our lives. Grateful reflection teaches us that we need to recognize the numerous ways in which the world supports, nurtures, and sustains us.”

Grace: receive the good

“Once we see the good, we must learn to accept it, and absorb it into the very nature of our being, which is challenging because most of us are not used to getting something for nothing and want to earn whatever comes our way.”

Love — give back the good

“Real gratitude promotes a desire to reflect the goodness received by creatively seeking opportunities for giving. This is love.”

When you start to practice these three steps, it becomes easier to find things to feel grateful about. It’s a good feeling and one that you almost always want to share.

Let’s do it! What are you grateful for today?

If you’d like to learn more about gratitude and its many benefits — even to your physical health — I also interviewed Emmons for the Catching Health podcast.

Diane Atwood, Health contributor

Diane Atwood writes the award-winning blog Catching Health and produces and hosts the Catching Health podcast. She has been sharing stories about health and wellness for more than 30 years, first as a...