How often do you feel thankful for the little things around you, the big gestures and the presence of loved ones in your life?
If your answer is “frequently,” chances are that you’re a much happier and satisfied person than someone that doesn’t feel thankful.
Gratitude is simple – all that you have to do is say a couple of words to express your emotions. The psychological and physical health benefits of gratitude, however, are tremendous and worth pointing out.
Still not certain whether you should be expressing gratitude on a regular basis? Here are some of the biggest benefits you’ll get to enjoy if you decide to do so.
The Health Benefits of Gratitude
Cultivating gratitude as a virtue will impact both your physical and psychological health.
Numerous studies have been carried out and the vast majority concludes decisively that something as simple as a positive emotion can have a profound impact on wellbeing.
According to University of California Davis researcher Robert Emmons, people that perceive gratitude as an inherent trait tend to be much healthier than the ones that experience it as solely a temporary state of mind. The main reason for this difference according to Emmons is that grateful people tend to take better care of themselves and be more health-conscious.
In addition, grateful people tend to be bigger optimists than the ones that aren’t grateful frequently. A link has already been established between a positive outlook on life and improved immune response.
Gratitude is also a tool for effective stress management.
Chronic stress is one of the triggers behind a vast range of health problems, including heart disease and certain types of cancer. Feelings of thankfulness act as an emotional release, enabling individuals to cope better with stress and reduce its negative impact on their bodies.
Why Gratitude is Good for Your Health [Infographic]
Gratitude, of course, makes you feel good—that’s obvious. But it does other things you’re probably not even aware of.
Take decision-making: Practicing gratitude can help you make more thoughtful decisions. It can also help you be in better physical condition as well as sleep better—an amazing range of positive reactions.
But how then do we translate knowing that gratitude is good for us into practice? One way is to improve mindfulness by keeping a gratitude journal.
You can do it the old-fashioned way—something that’s handwritten—or you can take advantage of electronic options such as a journaling app or a blog (which you don’t have to tell anyone about).
You can also add a calendar reminder to your day, to help you put the idea of remembering gratitude into everyday practice.
What you write isn’t important; what’s important is to record your thoughts, to allow the process to influence you for the better.
One way to really kick-start improving your mindfulness and experience the benefits of gratitude is to set yourself a challenge.
You’ve probably done these sorts of things before—say, an exercise challenge. The process is the same: Set a time limit (30 days is a good start) and create a gratitude goal. You can record your thoughts for 5 minutes a day.
You can find unusual ways to say thank you. Or you can follow the gratitude suggestions—recording thoughts about a friend or a memory, for example.
The important thing is to work toward a gratitude practice, which in turn has benefits that will translate into improved physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
This graphic by Fix, which expertly leads you through the benefits of gratitude and the way to create a gratitude practice, is a good place to start.
Psychological and Emotional Benefits of Gratitude
We’ve already taken a peek at some of the ways in which gratitude could impact psychological health. The fact that it can be used to control stress is one of the most important mechanisms in which gratitude could reduce anxiety and depression.
The psychological and emotional benefits of feeling thankful go well-beyond stress management, however:
Increased mental strength.
Gratitude could speed up recovery after a traumatic event, several studies suggest. It speeded up the recovery of Vietnam war veterans and enabled them to cope better with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
An interesting study was published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology in 2014. According to the research, athletes that were grateful managed to deliver optimal performance each time and have higher confidence than their peers.
Grateful people tend to be much more empathetic towards others, even when other people aren’t reciprocating the sentiment.
In addition, grateful people are much less likely to retaliate against others and they find it easier to control aggression.
Overall improvement in psychological health.
People that are inherently grateful find it a lot easier to deal with negative emotions like envy and greed. These people are less likely to feel frustrated or resentful.
As a result, grateful individuals are in a better state of mind and enjoy a stable emotional state.
Improved relationships with others.
Grateful people have healthier attachments to others than people that don’t practice mindful gratitude.
Studies suggest these individuals tend to feel less lonely and more a part of a community. Others see them as more altruistic, open and positive, which is also a major factor for the great relationships such people are likely to have.
What does It Take to Practice Mindful Gratitude?
You can do several very simple things to make gratitude a part of your everyday routine. Building these habits will help you internalize the emotion and turn thankfulness into a state of mind.
Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the simplest things you can begin doing. All that you need is a notebook. Make a daily entry in the journal (for example, before going to bed) and list a couple of things that you’re grateful about.
Another simple thing you can do is try to give at least one compliment on a daily basis. Pay attention to the people around you, their accomplishments and contributions to your happiness. By complimenting people, you’ll become more mindful of your surroundings and everything positive in your life.
Gratitude is easy in positive circumstances but how about the tough times? The manner in which you handle those can also help you cultivate gratitude. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself or allowing the sense of loss to take over, think about the lesson you could learn from the situation.
Negative experiences can be incredibly beneficial later on in life, as long as you’re willing to do some analysis and learn from your mistakes.
Finally, you may want to partner with someone.
Having a friend or a significant other to participate in the process alongside you will definitely make things a whole lot easier. Share your gratitude journals and talk to each other, especially when one is feeling down.
Having someone to lift you up and give you a push can make all of the difference in the world, especially at times when you find it very difficult to experience gratitude.
So these are the amazing benefits of gratitude. What about you? What 3 things are you grateful for today?