It is easy to focus on the negatives in life. All humans have stress and hardship we must endure; this is unavoidable. Even though we have to face challenging elements, it is essential to be grateful for all the wonderful things we have or the people we meet.
Practicing gratitude can play a game-changing role as it has a positive impact on many aspects of our life, ranging from mental health to our relationships. Explore the benefits of being thankful and how to practice gratitude to make it your daily routine.
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Why is it important to be grateful?
Living a life of gratitude brings you a lot of positive changes and helps you notice little wins – like the sun shining, someone saying a compliment to you, or having a cozy evening with your family. Once you add gratitude to your daily habits, you improve your well-being – your mental and physical health changes for the best, enabling you to notice joy and happiness in everything that happens to you.
So, how does gratitude change you, your brain, and your body?
Improving your mental health
Modern psychologists call gratitude a ‘moral barometer’. Indeed, according to Robert Emmons’ studies, who is a famous gratitude researcher, people who practice gratitude feel happier and less depressed and get rid of toxic emotions like envy or frustration.
A study from 2017 shows that writing gratitude letters is beneficial not only for mentally strong people but also for those struggling with mental concerns. The study’s participants who wrote gratitude letters reported better mental health after they ended with the activity.
The study also found indications of how gratitude may influence our minds and body. Here are some of the study’s insights:
- Gratitude unshackles people from negative emotions by shifting our attention away from negative emotions and focusing on positive ones.
- It may take time to feel better after practicing gratitude. So, it’s vital to be patient waiting for its benefits.
- Expressing gratitude to people or things has lasting effects on the brain. It means that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to being grateful, improving our mental health over time.
Living a life of gratitude provides you the feeling of greater happiness and joy. You feel more at peace, lighter, and more satisfied with your life. All these emotions are connected with optimism and empower you to view your future with optimism.
We all know that our life depends on our thoughts, and focusing on the negative brings about more negativity. So, gratitude helps you notice positive moments in your life, boosting your optimism and positivity.
Improving your physical health
The gratitude regions relate to the brain’s parts that control heart rate. So, feeling grateful helps you relieve stress because you start feeling more satisfied with your life. By shifting your attention from toxic emotions, gratitude also makes you feel better and experience fewer aches and pains because of stronger immune systems. Mentally healthy people are likely to take care of their health more than others. They usually do sports regularly, attend a gym, or do other activities to contribute to their physical well-being.
Besides, grateful people sleep better. Spending just 10-15 minutes writing a few lines expressing what you are thankful for before going to bed will help you sleep longer and better.
Boosting your relationships
Gratitude makes the recipient feel better, but numerous researches prove that gratitude is beneficial for both parties. For example, one study found that people may feel more motivated to build relationships with those who do something for them, and it’s gratitude that boosts relationships in this case.
The feeling of appreciation also plays an essential part in maintaining relationships. According to the researcher’s studies, those partners feeling appreciation are more responsive to their partners’ needs. In other words, if people recognize and express the significance of their partners by gratitude, they may do even more for maintaining relationships.
3 essential things you’re thankful for
Everyone can find three things to be grateful for. Take a moment and reflect on your life and the positive things you have. The people you value, the possessions you enjoy, and the modern-day conveniences we often take for granted.
Think about running water — Wow! Running water, whenever you want it for cooking, drinking, cleaning, bathing. This is such a luxury that many people around the world do not have access to readily and conveniently and we don’t even think twice about this. If you want to have an eye opener, check out the sited article from World Health Organization stating that in 2019, 1 in 3 people globally do not have access to safe drinking water. It is hard to imagine this and certainly brings a feeling of gratitude.
Think about the computer or phone your using to read this post. With a few clicks you have access to infinite information from around the globe. This in itself is mind blowing! Everyone over the age of 30 did not grow up with easy internet access, let alone smart phones. It’s important to sit back and take a moment to think about the days we wrote research papers from encyclopedias with outdated information. I think back with a giggle to the days of debating a topic with neighborhood kids and having my primary argument for being right as “my dad said so”, in lieu of getting the real facts from a quick smart phone googling session.
Also, what about simply the gift of life? The fact we get to be here, on this earth, a part of this mystifying and dynamic existence. We have the ability to think on a level higher than all of the millions of known species on this earth. We have the ability to explore and expand our minds in whatever direction we desire. It is important to take a moment when we get caught up in the daily shuffle of life to remember how invaluable our ability for sentient thought is.
Do you ever take a moment and just say wow — how amazing is it that I am a human? I am part of a species that once dwelled in caves and thought you would sail right off the edge of the earth and now can manipulate the weather, create products like CRISPR, land on the moon or create the technology to call someone from anywhere nearly in the globe for a quick casual chat? I mean wow. We are a part of this amazing species and we have the ability to do great things.
These examples may be in some ways obvious, but at the same time we often forget to take a moment to sit in awe of them as they have become the norm. I encourage you to take time daily to acknowledge what you are grateful for and give yourself an opportunity to reflect on all the wonder and opportunity you have in your life. Take time to appreciate this existence and all it has to offer.
How to practice gratitude
Keeping a gratitude journal
A gratitude journal is one of the most useful techniques for practicing gratitude. Spending a few minutes in the morning or evening reflecting upon the things you are grateful will bring a lot of benefits to your well-being. According to Robert Emmons’ research, regularly taking reflections on moments you are grateful for can improve life satisfaction and your psychological health.
Start your day completing, ‘’Today I’m thankful for…’’. It’s more beneficial if you can do it in front of your mirror to say it looking in your eyes. Practice taking notes in your gratitude journal before going to bed. You don’t need to spend hours on this activity every day – 15-20 minutes are quite enough – still, it needs regular practice; gratitude shouldn’t be momentous. Only by regular practicing, you will reach your goal – less negativity and more happiness in your life.
Keeping a gratitude journal is very popular among celebrities who report about its incredible beneficial effect. Oprah Winfrey is a prime example of the fact that grateful people always succeed. She has been writing notes in her gratitude journal for many years, and though her schedule often gets her overwhelmed, she regularly takes notes in her gratitude journal. She even said that she has journals dating back every single day for over a decade.
“Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.” — Oprah Winfrey.
Writing gratitude letters
Gratitude is not only about being thankful for things in your life, but it’s also about expressing gratitude to other people. As I’ve mentioned earlier in the article, a study shows that writing gratitude letters helps mentally healthy people and depressed people as well. Expressing your appreciation to your family, relatives, friends, or colleagues is as beneficial as keeping a gratitude journal.
You don’t need to write such a letter every day if you are very busy. You can do it once a week or month but do it regularly and don’t give up. Once you start practicing it, you will realize that your life is not as bad as you might think of it.
8 useful hacks to make gratitude your daily routine
Express appreciation to yourself
Expressing gratitude to others starts with accepting yourself. Practice saying thank you to yourself for who you are looking deep in your eyes.
Practice gratitude affirmations
Saying, ‘’I’m thankful for …’’, to everything that surrounds you is a great and easy way to focus on appreciation. Use the affirmations every day to strengthen the power of a gratitude journal.
Make a gratitude box
This technique is similar to keeping a gratitude journal or affirmations. You can make a special box for collecting short notes of what you are thankful for. Throw one note a day and reflect on them on New Year’s Day. It will be an excellent activity to boost your motivation for the next year.
Say ‘’Thank you’’ to your meal
Taking many things for granted, sometimes we forget that many people suffer from hunger on the Earth, while many of us can choose what to eat for breakfast, lunch or supper. That’s why you should express your gratitude for the food you are going to eat.
Begin and end your day with gratitude
Daily self-reflection is vital for everyone. It helps you focus on your achievements and get your juices flowing for the day and have a good sleep at night.
Compliment others every day
Compliments can make other people feel good. Telling someone about his or her good qualities will bring pleasure to the recipient and you. Practice giving at least one sincere compliment a day!
Make a habit of thank you
We say thank you to our colleagues, supermarket workers, and others, but sometimes we forget to do it for our family. Make ‘’saying thank you’’ a habit and use it for noticing even little things you get used to taking for granted.
Celebrate the moment
Finally, enjoy every moment you live and be grateful for the good things that happen to you. Take at least 10-15 minutes a day to stop and enjoy the beauty of nature and other things around you.
In a nutshell
You can think of gratitude as an emotion or mental state, but whatever you might choose, gratitude is something that will bring you closer to a better well-being. I hope you’ll manage to add gratitude to your daily routine! If you feel doubt or still need a piece of advice, I’ll be glad to help you during my coaching sessions with you.