Gratitude is thankfulness and appreciation for the things we received. It is an emotion to show our admiration and exultation for what we were given.
Robert Emmons, a leader in the field of gratitude research, defines gratitude as the feeling that occurs when a person attributes a benefit they have received to another. — The Psychology of Gratitude, 2004.
Importance of Gratitude In Life
Emmons, gratitude researcher, says those who practice grateful thinking “reap emotional, physical and interpersonal benefits.”
There are certain habits and rituals proven to make you happier when you include in your everyday routine. Gratitude is one powerful strategy out of them.
Gratitude shifts our focus to what we have instead of what we lack. For most part, it doesn’t cost us money or material to express gratitude, but its merits are many. Research in positive psychology is proving how gratitude works in improving our mental wellbeing and life-satisfaction.
Psychologists confirm gratitude is a great way to increase our happiness, and better our mood, health, and relationships. No matter how simple it may seem to have any effect, but gratitude has the power to positively change the way we see life and experience its challenges.Having an "attitude of gratitude" is one of the simplest ways to improve your life-satisfaction. Click To Tweet
Gratitude can also be an effective solution to some of your unresolved mental health issues.
- A research showed gratitude can significantly cut back depression in young adults by increasing self-esteem and psychological well-being.
- Another research showed gratitude can protect against suicide. The researchers found gratitude acts as a barrier between suicidal ideas and hopelessness and depression.
- Yet another research found gratitude along with grit acted in synergy to buffer suicide through increased meaning in life.
So why not start practicing it?
There are scientifically proven actions you could take to become more grateful towards your life and relationships. All you have to do is to start with small rituals that turn into habits with time. These small incremental habits can then help you become more grateful in your daily life.
But how can gratitude have so big and important effects on our lives? And what are those effects people are talking about?
4 Proven Benefits of Gratitude
Even though it’s a small thing you practice every day, it could influence your life in some big, positive ways.
1. Gratitude Makes You More Positive
Psychologists studying the science of gratitude have discovered this: people who practice gratitude daily, are more positive, optimistic, and have a higher level of wellbeing.
Grateful people are not only more optimistic, but they also experience more positive emotions than others.
In a set of four studies, researchers McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang found feelings of gratitude are associated with less frequent negative emotions, and more frequent positive emotions such as feeling energetic, alert, and enthusiastic.
This, in turn, has a positive effect. Experiencing positive emotions more regularly can protect you from feeling the intensely negative ones, as resentment, bitterness, and greed.
People who are generally grateful also report being less narcissistic.
2. Gratitude Makes Your Relationships Better
A grateful person is more positive and optimistic. Such a person has healthy self-esteem and is more open to getting to know new people. And, of course, more grateful people are generous with their appreciation of others.
Gratitude helps people appreciate their close ones — family, spouse, kids, friends — and others around them more, and improve their relationship with them.
In the end, gratitude gets you being seen by others as a good person to have connections with, at home, at work, and at social meets.
Gratitude helps you appreciate the little things in life, like the efforts your dearest ones make for you. Gratitude makes you appreciate them more and positively changes the way you see your relationship with them.
Studies also show leaders who show gratitude to their teams can make them feel more motivated. And it is enough to say a simple “thank you.”
3. Gratitude Has Positive Health Benefits
Gratitude has positive effects on your physical and psychological health too, not only on your relationships.
- Studies show, if practiced daily, gratitude can lower the symptoms of anxiety and depression by up to 35%.
- Also, it can lower blood pressure and improve your sleep quality, and these lead to an increase in your wellbeing level.
- Gratitude can also help you increase your exercise frequency, thus helping you stay fit.
- When practiced daily, gratitude can lower your stress levels and help you enjoy life more.
- Gratitude can also improve your immunity.
All in all, psychologists suggest being grateful is an asset all people should strive to have in their lives. It helps you increase the frequency of your positive emotions while keeping destructive ones away.
It helps you keep stress, anxiety, and depression away and it can help you exercise more and stay fit. Gratitude also helps people recover easily from depression or substance abuse.
4. Gratitude Increases Your Happiness
In general, as studies have found, more grateful people are happier, more satisfied in their lives, and tend to care less about the material things. Also, studies show gratitude practices can improve overall happiness and mood.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of the excellent book on positive psychology, The How of Happiness, says: Gratitude …
- encourages morality
- raises self-worth and self-esteem
- helps prevent hedonic adaptation
- helps to stop comparing yourself to others
- fosters the savoring of positive experiences
- may reduce feelings of anger, resentment and greed
- helps you cope better with stressful and traumatic events
- help build new social bonds, and strengthen existing ones
How To Increase Your Gratitude Practice
But what should you do to be more grateful? How to practice gratitude?
Gratitude interventions can be of two types:
- those that cultivate feelings of appreciation (as gratitude journal)
- those that strengthen relationships (as gratitude letter).
And now, here are four easy ways to enhance your gratitude practice:
- Start a gratitude journal
- Write letters of gratitude
- Pay attention to what you have
- Practice gratitude meditation
1. Start A Gratitude Journal
Starting a gratitude journal may seem odd, but it is very helpful and it helps you cultivate gratitude. Gratitude practiced daily increases the frequency of positive emotions. It also helps you focus on the positive parts of your life and relationships.
Think about a time during the day when you have 10 minutes free to focus on this task. Take a notebook and start writing things you are grateful for. You could do this in the morning and have a boost of positive emotions during the entire day.
You could also do it before going to sleep, finding the little things that happened during the day you are grateful for.
Start with small things in your life. They can be activities from your mundane routine. For example, you could be grateful your flowers have bloomed, or that you managed to fix something in your house. You could be grateful simply because the weather is sunny and you managed to sunbathe.
You could be grateful for the starry night sky, or because your toddler learned a few new words. You could be grateful for the people you have in your life and for their support.
Think about three to five things you are grateful for each day. Even though it may be difficult to find these things when you start. But the more you practice it, the easier it will be to identify those little things that make you a little happier every day.
Write in your gratitude journal every day, especially on those days when you are down and feel like nothing good happened. You will start to appreciate the ones around you more and take happiness from the little pleasures in life.
4 simple ideas to make your gratitude journal more beneficial:
- Go deep: write in details about a particular thing.
- Take time: don’t rush it; rather, savor the thing you write about.
- Get personal: focus more on persons than on things.
- Don’t overdo it: Prof Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found people who wrote in their journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness later, but those who wrote three times per week didn’t.
When practiced from time to time, gratitude journaling can boost your wellbeing, happiness, mood, health, and relationships.
Here is the Three Good Things Gratitude Exercise:
2. Write Letters of Gratitude
Studies show gratitude expressed towards others can boost your happiness, which then leads to mood changes. When you will start your gratitude journal, you will find not only things you are grateful for but people too. They may be from the present or the past.
Have you ever expressed gratitude towards them? Well, most of us didn’t.
This is why you could start writing letters of gratitude. Think about those people who inspired and motivated you to pursue your dreams and goals. They could be the people in your life or public personalities, as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dalai Lama, Alain de Botton, or Stephen Hawking.
The best thing about this is you do not have to deliver those letters if you do not want to. It would be nice to make someone dear to you a pleasant surprise with your gratitude letter, but not all of us feel they could do this.
And that is fine; just tell yourself you would never judge yourself for writing it.
Writing a simple letter of gratitude to someone close to you will make you feel happier and less stressed. It is also a great way to stop taking the people in your life for granted, and instead, start to appreciate them more.
3. Pay Attention To What You Have
You may call it counting your blessings. That is, expressing thankfulness for all the good things you have in your life.
Being grateful may come with challenges for some of us. Instead of focusing on the things that make us happy, we may tend to focus on the ones that make us sad.
Our brains are used to noticing more of the bad things that happen every day in our life. So, it is difficult to teach it to be more grateful and positive. While this is not an impossible task, but a challenging one.
The most important piece of advice would be to pay attention to what you have, and not to what you lack.
For example, instead of focusing on the fact that one of your friends forgot your birthday, you could change your perspective. And instead, you could be grateful for all those times your friend had been beside you.
If you find it difficult, then try imagining your life without any particular thing around you — for example, your mobile, your home, your bed.
Practicing gratitude will help you see the challenges in your life not as drawbacks, but as opportunities to become better. And this applies to both your personal or professional life.
Gratitude will help you change your perspective on many events in your life and help you become more optimistic and positive.
Gratitude will help you improve your relationships with your close ones and your overall life experience.
You could try paying attention to your food while you’re eating, called Mindful Eating.
4. Practice Gratitude Meditation
Gratitude and meditation go hand in hand; each enhances the other.
Meditation helps you accept all your thoughts and it nurtures your inner self. It nurtures gratitude, self-acceptance and a less judgmental view on yourself and your environment.
Gratitude meditation is the practice of reflecting on the things in your lives you’re grateful for. It’s experiencing appreciation for a loved one, a beautiful day, or a scoop of ice-cream.
It can well be for things in your past — as being grateful for a quick recovery from an illness, or having weathered a tough time of your life and coming out strong.
You can be grateful for waking up in the morning, for the breath that gives you life, for your ability to interact with this beautiful world.
You could practice meditation in many forms; mindfulness is the most popular of them all.
The idea behind practicing mindfulness is that you learn to take notice of all your thoughts, positive or negative. You learn to notice and let them go without judgment. You learn to approach them with hope, acceptance, and grace.
You can find a great gratitude meditation script by Buddhist monk Jack Kornfield here.
And below is a guided morning meditation for gratitude practice:
5 Gratitude Quotes
Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, hostility, worry, and irritation. It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is present-oriented.— Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor Psychology at the University of California
Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.— Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher and sage who founded Epicureanism
I believe that gratitude is the best approach to life. When life is going well, it allows us to celebrate and magnify the goodness. When life is going badly, it provides a perspective by which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary experiences. And this is what grateful people do. They have learned to transform adversity into opportunity no matter what happens, to see existence itself as a gift.— Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.― Melody Beattie, Author of books on codependent relationships
Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.— Ralph Waldo Emerson, essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet
Gratitude encourages us not only to appreciate our gifts but also to repay them or pay them forward.
Gratitude can change your mood, health, and relationships. It increases the frequency of positive emotions and can lift your mood up. It helps you keep away destructive emotions and the hidden cost of stress, anxiety, and depression. It also helps you appreciate the people in your life more and then this goes on to strengthen your bonds.
In brief, the takeaways for starting a gratefulness practice are:
- Gratitude Journal: Try finding some things you are grateful for every day and write them down in a journal.
- Gratitude Letter: You may write letters to people you are thankful to and pay attention to what you have more than to what you have not.
- Count Your Blessings: Be grateful for things you have in your life, and count your blessings for having them.
- Gratitude Meditation: Mindfulness focused on gratitude can help you foster gratitude and nurture your inner self.
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Authors’ Bio: Leon Collier is a freelance writer from the UK, who loves to offer online assignment help about everything: pop-culture, travel, self-development, marketing. He enjoys reading about wellbeing and happiness and playing tabletop games. Follow him on Twitter. Sandip Roy is a psychology writer, happiness researcher, and medical doctor. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog.
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