Gratitude takes plenty of forms and can be practiced in multiple ways.
Some like to do it through journaling, others like to say them out loud, others like to share it with significant others over dinner, and others may just find creative ways to incorporate into their everyday lives.
Gratitude is simply a form of showing appreciation for the small and big things in your life, however, most people don’t do it regularly enough. We might be used to being grateful on certain occasions, like Thanksgiving, but not so much as an everyday practice. We hear that gratitude is important but what is the reasoning behind it that makes it beneficial to our health and well-being?
Benefits of Gratitude
Overall, research findings suggest that grateful people are more likely to take care of their physical and mental health, manage stress better, feel more optimistic, and have a brighter outlook in life.
If we know that we’re more likely to eat a healthier diet, exercise more regularly, and even improve our immune system just by including this habit, why not try it?
1. Increases happiness and reduces depression.
2. Reduces toxic emotions like envy and frustration.
3. Increases empathy. People who practice gratitude regularly are more likely to be kind, even when others around them behave poorly.
4. Improves Sleep. According to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, writing down a few grateful thoughts before bed may help you sleep better and longer.
5. Reduces social comparison. Practicing gratitude increases awareness of the good around you making it less likely to compare yourself to others.
6. Fosters resilience. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Being grateful during difficult times fosters resilience.
Lessons I Learned from Practicing Gratitude
The best way to start practicing gratitude is to squeeze it in on spare moments throughout the day or whenever you need a little boost of motivation and perspective. Like any other practice or habit, it’s always smart to start small until it becomes more natural.
Does your commute involve walking a couple of blocks? That’s a perfect time!
I started building small gratitude walks in my day by just engaging at the moment while I walk home in the evening - Finding extra time in the day is not even required!
While I walk, I list five to ten things that I’m grateful for that particular day.
This is what I learned by practicing gratitude every day for the past few months:
1. At first, it may be a bit challenging to come up with even 5 things to be grateful for but it becomes easier as you go. The trick is to start with things that we tend to take for granted - Clear skies and beautiful Spring weather, catching that bus with a minute to spare, a nice work lunch, funny conversations, etc.
2. Not only did “gratitude walks” become easier with time, but I also realized that the reasons for being grateful are constantly changing. That’s why it’s so important to prompt the exercise with “What am I grateful for today?” We should build it in a way that allows space for continuity and growth. What you’re grateful for today may be completely different than what you will be grateful for tomorrow.
3. My ability to pay attention to detail has broadened. I notice things that I hadn’t before and take mental notes of anything that makes me feel happy during the day. This allows me to focus my energy on positivity rather than negativity.
4. It’s become easier to see the bright side in challenging situations. This ties in beautifully with the point above; focusing on gratitude and positivity makes you a better and more efficient problem-solver.
5. On a similar note, I noticed that I’ve become much more sensitive to the negativity around me. Not to say that I’m expecting to live in a world where negativity doesn’t exist, that’s just not realistic. I just see it from a different lens and process it differently than before. If I find myself in a negative situation, I either tend to purposely disengage or find a way to contribute a more positive note to that particular conversation.
Gratitude is like building muscle, the more it’s exercised, the more robust it gets. And what’s more, it reflects in our attitude and outlook.
There’s nothing to lose by giving it a try, as a matter of fact, there’s much more to gain if you incorporate this healthy routine for a boost of positivity, a healthier lifestyle, and a more resilient mindset.
What are you grateful for today?