What do you think of when the word “gratitude” is mentioned? A lot of us associate it with saying thank you but it actually goes a lot deeper than that.
Gratitude is the gateway to happiness. Study after study has found that gratitude rewires your brain for positivity. What you put in your body determines what you get out of it. That’s true for food and exercise and it’s also true for your thoughts, your relationships and the community that you surround yourself with.
Researchers call gratitude “the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; it is a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation.” Not surprisingly, many studies connect gratitude with a sense of overall well-being.
Practicing gratitude can reduce mental conditions like depression and anxiety, lower your risk for disease and flood your brain with feel-good chemicals like serotonin.
Science says that gratitude can improve your physical and emotional health and can make you much less likely to be affected by self-doubt and negative thinking.
That’s why if you’re not practicing gratitude on a regular basis, it’s time to make it a big part of your daily routine.
Some positive effects gratitude can have on your health and wellbeing
In a study by Robert Emmons at UC Davis in California, one group of participants were asked to list things they were grateful for. The other group focused on problems and setbacks they had experienced that day. The gratitude group saw a 25% improvement in their health and wellbeing, including having more energy, enjoying better quality sleep and feeling fewer aches and pains. They were also more optimistic about their health than the group that concentrated on the negatives.
Other physical effects can include lower stress levels and a reduction in cortisol levels. If you’re someone who is negatively affected by stress and find it hard to manage your stress levels, demonstrating gratitude on a regular basis can be a game changer for getting on top of your stress.
In another study, people were asked to write a letter expressing their gratitude and to hand deliver it in person. Afterwards, they reported that they felt a lot happier and more satisfied with their life. These feelings weren’t just fleeting effects either, they often lasted for weeks!
Gratitude can make you more open to forgiving people and can help you to form stronger relationships with the people around you. If you’re holding onto a lot of bitterness and resentment and finding it hard to forgive people for past events, gratitude could be just what you need to start moving forwards.
Here are some ways to include gratitude into your daily routine:
- Become more mindful. If you don’t already practice mindfulness on a regular basis, this is a really good time to start doing it. Mindfulness is a big part of gratitude, which makes sense as how can you be grateful for things in your life if you’re not aware of them? The more mindful you are, the easier you’ll find it to tap into even the tiny things that are happening around you and the effects that they have on you.
- Practice mindful eating. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full. The practice of slow, mindful eating— being aware of and enjoying your meals—is a powerful way to better enjoy your food, lose weight, improve your metabolism and cultivate gratitude.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Writing down the things that you’re grateful for can be extremely powerful. According to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, writing in a gratitude journal for 10 weeks meant that participants experienced brighter moods, found it easier to engage in positive thinking and slept better. Pretty good, right? Get into the habit of noting down three-five things that you are thankful for each day. These can be anything, from someone who smiled at you in the street and lifted your mood to seeing the faces of your family after a long day at work.
- Reach out and thank someone. We all have people in our lives who in some way have made our lives better. Make a phone call or send a text message and let that person know how much they mean to you. It will add a spark to both your days.
And finally, don’t focus on what you don’t have in your life. Stop and be grateful for all the wonderful things that you do have in your life and when you do that you will become aware of how rich your life actually is and how blessed you truly are.
Medical Disclaimer: All information contained in this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent health problems. For all serious health issues, please contact a medical or nutrition practitioner. The information provided in this blog is based on the best knowledge of the author at the time of writing and we do not assume liability for the information within this blog, be it direct or indirect, consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages. In all circumstances, it is always wise to consult your physician before changing your diet, taking supplements or starting any exercise or health program.