Amazing Benefits of Gratitude
There is often a lot of talk, especially during the holiday season, about gratitude. Friends and family posting on social media the things they are grateful for throughout the month of November. Sharing family memories and good times with friends using hashtags like #blessed and #grateful.
It’s so nice to reflect on all the things you are blessed with around Thanksgiving as it forces us to be intentional about counting our blessings! But did you know that practicing gratitude and being mindful of the things you are grateful for during all times of the year has incredible benefits?! Even science backs up the seemingly endless benefits a little gratitude brings.
Gratitude increases positivity.
Have you ever heard the phrase “when it rains, it pours?” You probably have! Once negativity creeps up it’s difficult to see beyond it. Before you know it, you’re in a negative thought loop and can’t seem to focus on anything else. A simple daily practice can help decrease the likelihood of getting trapped in a vortex of negativity and move your mind towards more positivity. Positive thoughts lead to positive feelings, which leads to positive actions!
Try starting a gratitude journal. Each day in a journal or notebook, jot down at least 3 things you are grateful for that day. This little task helps your mind think of things you’re grateful for which produces dopamine and serotonin - the chemicals in your brain responsible for pleasure and are associated with increased mood!
Gratitude has a positive effect on your physical health.
No, really! Research backs this up! The National Institute of Health published a study in 2013 that found a connection between physical health and people who were more grateful. It turns out that grateful people made more positive decisions about their health and participated in more healthy activities.
Another research study from the National Institute of Health looked at brain activity in people while they expressed feelings of gratitude. Guess what? The participants had higher levels of activity in a certain area of the brain and gave researchers the idea that people who increased their gratitude may also show improvement in their exercise and sleeping habits, among other benefits!
More positive focus on gratitude can naturally lead to more positive feelings and actions, improving your overall health. Even physical health!
Gratitude can help you have a positive outlook.
Remember the negative thought loop? That slippery slope of negativity. Humans are naturally wired to look for danger; which often translates into only being able to see negative aspects of any situation. Have you ever noticed that there’s often more energy and enthusiasm when a person is complaining or something has gone wrong for them? Just read some negative reviews on social media for some examples!
People who intentionally practice gratitude, however, seem to have a more positive outlook in general than those who do not practice gratitude. Gratitude helps us focus on what’s going right instead of what’s going wrong.
Not only that, but gratitude can also help you feel more appreciative of circumstances and what you have!
Gratitude helps you deal with difficult situations
Gratitude has the power to put you in a frame of mind that helps you better understand and connect yourself with the world around you. Paying attention to what you are grateful for helps put difficult situations into perspective, and helps you focus on moving forward toward solutions. Think of gratitude as a way to find something beautiful even within the context of a difficult situation.
How to practice gratitude
With all these amazing benefits, what are you waiting for? Here are 5 ways you can start being more grateful today!
- Start that gratitude journal.
Spend a few minutes each day and write down at least 3 things you are grateful for. Some days this will be a big deal. Some days this will be something small. The purpose is to find what YOU are grateful for, not necessarily what you THINK you should be grateful for.
- Show gratitude to others with actions
Be intentional about finding opportunities to show gratitude. Say thank you to your Starbucks barista. Let your spouse know you are grateful for something they did for you. Make eye contact with the cashier at the grocery store. Smile. Say thank you.
Small gestures can add up to habits. The purpose is to be intentional about being grateful.
- Talk to yourself!
No, really. The inner critic in your head might give you negative feedback throughout the day. Be aware of this inner critic and challenge it!
- Give back
Find a place where you can volunteer your time and/or resources. Sometimes feelings of gratitude come easily when you give back to others.
- Clean up your social media
What types of accounts and posts are you looking at on social media? Do they make you feel bad about yourself or encourage gratitude? Unfollow or delete the accounts that don’t support your decision to focus on gratitude. Unfollow people who are routinely negative and get your thoughts on a negative path too.
Want to experience the many of benefits of gratitude for yourself? Pick one way to increase gratitude and start today! Before you know it you will create a new habit and a new attitude - an attitude of gratitude!
Clinical Director and Co-Owner at Redeemed Life Counseling