On November 23 when you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with friends or loved ones, it’s typical to express what you’re thankful for. But, why limit the good feeling of acknowledging everything that’s going right in your world to one Thursday a year?
Science says there’s a strong argument for adopting an attitude of gratitude.
Harvard Health reports that psychological research proves one way to increase happiness is to adopt a regular gratitude practice. The art of gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness in life. Being thankful helps people “feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships.”
How does it do so? By shifting your focus to the good things in life rather than uncertainties and worries. Chances are, some of the good things you’re grateful for have to do with other people or other powers, so gratitude helps us recognize the good in other people and other things.
OK, so you want to be more grateful. What does that look like?
One simple way to accomplish it is to start a gratitude journal. You can do it electronically, on your computer, on your phone or tablet, or even go old-school and write it down on paper. The point is, every day for 90 days, write down five things you’re grateful for and try not to repeat any of them. No matter how badly your day may be going, you’ll find that you can quickly identify a few things to be grateful for. Just look around.
You might be grateful for the beautiful autumn sky or the leaves changing colors. Or the fact that you sailed through three green lights on the way to work. Maybe you’re grateful for your best friend, spouse, children, pets or neighbor. The smell of the rain; the smile of a stranger, the first sip of your coffee or tea in the morning. Having hot water for your shower on a cold morning. A funny Facebook post that made you laugh. Whatever it is, write it down.
And you’ll start to realize that as you seek out things to be grateful for, you get better at finding them, and your brain adopts an attitude of gratitude.
The best part might be that gratitude is contagious. When you exhibit gratitude around your family, friends and kids (yes, kids!) they become more grateful by association – it simply rubs off on them.
There’s even a Facebook group called 90 Days of Gratitude where you can share what you’re grateful for each day, and read what others find to be grateful for. It might be a better way of starting your day than listening to the news, but who are we to say?
Science tells us there are at least 7 proven benefits of gratitude:
- Better physical health. When you’re grateful for what you have, you tend to care for it, and that includes your body and physical health. Gratitude encourages you to exercise more – because you’re grateful that you are physically able to – and schedule regular medical check-ups.
- Improves psychological health. Gratitude neutralizes toxic emotions including regret, envy, frustration and resentment. There’s a strong link between gratitude and feelings of well-being, increasing happiness and reducing depression.
- Improves relationships. When you’re grateful for the people in your life, relationships flourish. So, get in the habit of thanking strangers or colleagues for their help – it might lead the way to a new friendship.
- Reduces aggression and promotes empathy. When you have a regular gratitude practice, you’re less likely to react aggressively, even in a negative situation. Increased sensitivity and empathy for the plight of others lowers the need to seek revenge.
- You’ll sleep better. When you schedule your gratitude practice before bedtime, studies show you may sleep better and even snooze a little longer. A good night’s sleep is certainly something to be grateful for!
- A self-esteem boost: rather than comparing yourself to others and feeling “less than,” people notice and appreciate the accomplishments of others.
- Increased mental strength. Gratitude lowers stress and can help people overcome trauma. By identifying the many things we have to be grateful for, even during difficult times, you foster mental resilience.
We’re thankful that you read this post!