We hear a lot about gratitude and its effects but what does it really mean and how can it help us? Gratitude is showing appreciation for what we have and the goodness in our lives. It’s giving thanks on a substantial level—it’s not superficial. An old French proverb claims that “gratitude is the heart’s memory.” By recognizing what we’re grateful for we can move forward in life with renewed spirit, optimism, and a higher quality of life.
What are some benefits of gratitude?
Improved mood: those who focus on positive things tend to be happier overall. Surround yourself with like-minded people for a contagious gratitude side effect. It’s a win-win!
Increased optimism: when we are happier, we also have a more positive outlook on life for ourselves and our loved ones. With a positive outlook, we’re more encouraged to take (healthy) risks and pursue our dreams.
Enhanced social bonds:when we show our appreciation for close friends and family, it not only makes them feel cherished, it reminds us of the connections we have in our lives.
Improved physical health: typically, when we’re happier and more positive about our lives, we take better care of our physical health. Exercise and eating healthier result in better sleep, more energy, decreased blood pressure, and a healthier immune system.
Connects us to a higher power: When we recognize that the source of gratitude goodness comes from outside of ourselves, it helps to connect us to other people, nature, and a higher power.
Elevates empathy: when we’re more gracious and practice showing thanks, it increases our sensitivity to others and motivates us to naturally support one another.
Better self-esteem: when we change our perspective and see the good in life, it can reduce our need for social comparisons. In today’s culture, this is highly beneficial for our wellbeing.
Increased mental strength: studies show that gratitude can help us overcome trauma, grief and anxiety and can increase our resilience in tough situations.
Better mental health: showing gratitude can help to reduce toxic emotions like anger, resentment or jealousy. We feel more inclined to take care of ourselves by going to check-ups and attending therapy when needed.
How can I show gratitude?
There are many ways to show appreciation in your life. For instance, we can show gratitude by reliving joyful past memories, appreciating the present and not taking it for granted, and by maintaining a hopeful attitude when looking towards our future. Here are a few approaches to try:
· Every day write down something that went well and why.
· Take breathing breaks and envision something positive.
· Create a new family ritual by explaining how gratitude makes you feel.
· Give out genuine compliments—even if you don’t know the person.
· Volunteer in your community.
· Perform random acts of kindness.
· Shift your perspective. Recognize how much you’ve grown in your life.
· Slow down and try to be more present.
· Notice things and relish in the small (and big) things that bring you joy.
With an unstable and stressful year nearly behind us and the holiday season approaching, it’s important now more than ever to adopt a gratitude practice into your life. Remember that it’s okay and normal to not feel grateful all the time. But when those feelings do arise, amplify your optimistic outlook and appreciation of others, and help cultivate a community of gracious, grateful people.
Sources: nationwidechildrens.org, health.harvard.edu, psyhcologytoday.com, livescience.com