Did you know that there are scientifically proven benefits associated with practicing gratitude on a regular basis? In this article, we’ll discuss exactly what gratitude is, some of these benefits of gratitude is, as well as how you (and your family) can create a gratitude practice of your very own.
What is Gratitude?
If you were to pick up a dictionary and look up the word “gratitude”, you would see something like this:
Gratitude [grat-i-tood, -tyood]
the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.
The Benefits of Gratitude
Gratitude (especially intentional gratitude) can have a positive impact on your physical health, emotional health, relationships, career, and even on your personality. In other words, it can impact nearly every aspect of your life and make a big difference in your overall happiness and wellbeing. Let’s take a look at 10 specific ways that gratitude can make your life better.
It gives you a more positive outlook on life
When you take the time to “count your blessings” and really appreciate the things about your life that are good, beneficial, or that make you happy, it tends to have a great side effect: you focus more on the positives than you do on the negatives.
It makes people happier to be around you
Have you ever been around someone who complained all the time? How about someone who could see the silver lining even in bad situations? While you may genuinely care for both of them, I’m willing to bet that you prefer being around the person who can help YOU see the bright side of things.
It reduces stress and anxiety
When you’re focused on the things in your life that are not so great or that you feel could be improved upon, it can generate quite a bit of stress and anxiety. However, when you actively choose to appreciate the things in your life that are going well, the people in your life who enrich it, and the things about yourself that you love, the stress and anxiety you feel just may shrink a bit.
It can help combat depression
Focusing on the good things in your life can also be a helpful way to fight depression – especially during times when life (and not just the chemicals in your brain) or causing you to struggle mentally and emotionally.
It can improve your relationships with friends and family
Not only can showing and expressing gratitude makes people happier to be around you – but it can also improve your relationships with the people you care about. Think about it. Don’t you love when someone lets you know how much you mean to them or how much they appreciate something you’ve done? Even if it was something you consider to be small or not a big deal, it makes you feel nice. It’s always good to feel like someone appreciates you… and it can really improve how you engage with and feel about that person.
It can improve relationships in your workplace or business
Gratitude doesn’t just improve your personal relationships. It can also improve your professional relationships. Expressing gratitude for and to your employer, employees, colleagues, or customers/clients can make things go more smoothly. It may also open doors to exciting opportunities!
It creates a more resilient mindset
Life can throw you curveballs. In fact, it can be downright hard. It can even feel impossible sometimes. But something beautiful happens when you are able to recognize and appreciate the good things – even in the midst of challenges. It helps you to push through in ways that you might not be able to if you’re stuck deep in negative thinking. It makes you realize that even though things might be bad right now, there are also good things… and that a lot of situations you face are either temporary or things that you can overcome. The more you practice intentional gratitude, the easier it can become to believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel — and that you have what it takes to make it there.
It helps you focus less on material things
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think that it’s bad to appreciate the physical things you have in your life. However, when you are able to appreciate all of the other things in life that you can’t put a price tag on (such as friends, family, health, your community, your education, your opportunities, your career, pets, your freedom, laughter, etc), you start to realize that there’s so much more to life than the things that money can buy.
It helps you to become more selfless
Another thing that happens when you focus on how many good things you have going for is that you realize that things could be so much worse… and that they are for a lot of people. And, often, when you have this realization of just how abundant your life is, it makes you want to help others to have a bit more abundance in their lives. And that is a beautiful thing because when you spread YOUR abundance to others, they may continue to spread by paying it forward. Isn’t that amazing!
It helps improve your self-esteem
Another (possibly) surprising benefit of gratitude is that it can improve your self-esteem. When you are grateful for what you have, it makes it easier to stop comparing yourself to others. And I think we can all agree that comparison is the thief of happiness. When you spend your life comparing yourself to others, it can make you feel like you’re not enough. Not successful enough. Not attractive enough. Not good enough. Not creative enough. Not smart enough. Not resourceful enough. But when you shift your focus to what’s good in your life, you realize that that’s not true!
How to Create a Gratitude Practice
Now that you have read about some of the major ways that gratitude can improve your life, I’m sure you’re ready to figure out how to incorporate it into your day. Here are some simple, yet powerful ways to practice gratitude on a daily basis. Look through them and decide which ones will be the easiest for you to implement and maintain. You can do them alone or with your loved ones.
Ask yourself “What am I grateful for today?”
Make a habit of asking yourself this every day… and genuinely thinking about at least one thing you’re grateful for. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It could simply be “I’m grateful that I woke up today”, “I’m grateful that my body moves”, or even something like “I’m grateful to have a new book to read”. The more you practice recognizing and celebrating the things in your life that you’re grateful for (big or small), the easier it will be!
Start a Gratitude Journal
If you like to write things down, one fun thing to do is start a gratitude journal. There are a lot of gratitude journals you can buy that are designed specifically for this purpose. However, you can buy a plain notebook or one with a cover you like and use that instead. Then, every day, write down what you’re grateful for. It can be as simple or as involved as you want it to be. Some people write in a diary-style where you talk through what you’re grateful for. Others may just prefer jotting down a list of things. Whatever works for you!
Start a Gratitude Jar
Love the idea of keeping a physical reminder of everything you have to be grateful for, but aren’t really the journaling type? Grab a mason jar, some slips of paper, and a pin. Voila! You have yourself a gratitude jar. Simply write down something you’re grateful for on the slip of paper, fold it up, and stick it in the jar. As time goes on, you’ll be able to watch your jar fill up with so many things that are good about your life. It’s a pretty awesome visual! Then, whenever you need a reminder of all of the beautiful things about your life, you can visit your gratitude jar and read through what you’ve added to it. Don’t have a jar – any kind of storage container will do – even a shoe box!
Start a Gratitude Board
More of a visual person? Start putting visual reminders of the things you’re grateful for on a board that is easily accessible. It could be a corkboard or even one of those display boards we used to use for science fair projects in school. Get creative! For example, if you’re feeling grateful for your family and friends, print out pictures of them and pin them to the board. Grateful for the beautiful things you see out in nature? Why not press and dry a flower to add to your board? If you’re artsy (by the way, if you like creating art, you’re artsy – you don’t have to be Picasso), you can even sketch or paint something you’re grateful for and add it to the board.
Start Saying Thank You
Another simple way to start practicing gratitude is to say “thank you” more often. And I’m not talking about in that perfunctory, immediate way that we often say thank you. Say it intentionally and with authenticity. You can start by telling the people who have made a positive impact in your life just how much they mean to you. You can do it in person, over the phone, via email, through social media, or even through snail mail. It will make you feel happy – and it also may very well make a big difference in THEIR life to know that something that they’ve done meant something to you. Then, whenever something happens that you feel grateful for or that makes you happy, don’t be shy about expressing that out loud. It doesn’t even have to be to a person. It can just be a vocalization of just how grateful you feel in that moment.
I hope that this has helped you, in some small way, to understand just how life-changing having an “attitude of gratitude” can be. And I can’t wait to hear how you incorporate gratitude in your daily life!
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