You might have heard a lot recently about how you need to develop a practice of gratitude. It all sounds nice in theory. But sometimes we don’t feel as motivated to try something if we don’t understand the true benefits.
Sure, being grateful sounds like a virtuous thing to be. Yet how can gratitude impact our lives in a useful way?
To emphasize the importance of a gratitude practice, we’ve rounded up the top benefits you might experience from working on gratitude in your life. Here are the best ones you don’t want to miss.
1. Gratitude increases your mental health.
A recent study found that people who were struggling with depression and anxiety were able to increase their positive feelings by writing gratitude letters. It did take a consistent practice over time for them to see results. But the evidence is clear that by focusing on the experiences and people in our lives, we can decrease our mental struggles. The people in the study didn’t even have to send their gratitude letters to have wonderful effects. But, of course, sharing your gratitude with others is always a great way to spread your joy with others.
2. Gratitude strengthens your relationships.
Feeling and expressing gratitude toward your family and friends strengthens your relationships. You will deepen your commitment and connection to the people that matter the most to you. Gratitude takes you out of a self-centered way of thinking and turns the focus on your appreciation for how other people add to your life. This could make you want to pick up the phone, schedule lunch, or spend more time with them. When you share your feelings of gratitude with those people, they get to share in your connection. This could have the added effect of them also wanting to spend more time with you.
3. Gratitude reduces your stress.
It’s no secret that what we think about a lot is what we give our attention and time to. When we spend a lot of time thinking about all the things in life that are negative, we also increase our stress levels and depression. By contrast, if you instead start to think about the things you feel grateful for, your attention goes to the positives in your life. Stress makes life feel frustrating and even hopeless. Gratitude makes us realize how much good we do have in our lives. It also helps us to remember that we have many things to be thankful for.
4. Gratitude makes you more likely to do self-care practices.
When life seems miserable and the future looks bleak, the last thing we want to do is meditate or go for a jog. Instead, we might pour ourselves a glass of wine (or two or three) and drown our sadness in a pint of ice cream. When we instead spend more time shifting our thinking to the positive things in our lives that we are thankful for, it makes us feel energized enough to create more of the good stuff.
5. Gratitude makes your body feel better.
When you’re overly stressed out, that feeling triggers a cascade of stress hormones that can increase inflammation in your body and just generally make you feel yuck. When you’re constantly in fight or flight mode, your physical health degrades and it can even shave some time off your life. Practicing gratitude allows you to decrease those inflammation-triggering hormones and boost up the relaxation hormones. When you spend more time thinking about the things you appreciate, your body benefits from your more relaxed and at-peace state of being.
6. Gratitude makes your job better.
When you feel more grateful at work, you see more of the positives instead of just the negatives. This might make you act more friendly, express your gratitude to your coworkers, and get more done because of your good vibes while working. If you’ve developed a practice of gratitude at work, you might also be able to better see a not-so-healthy work environment and feel empowered enough to change it or to change jobs. Practicing gratitude can help you develop your career in a more positive, effective way.
7. Gratitude makes your life go more smoothly.
When you create a consistent practice of gratitude, it will start to impact all areas of your life. Your body and mind will feel more healthy and vibrant. You’ll start to treat others with more consideration, appreciation, and kindness. You might sleep better and have better performance with your exercise and other self-care practices. Your friends and family might notice the change in you and be inspired. Your boss might take notice of your shift and be more interested in helping you develop your career. Your frame of mind will change and it might cause you to create magic in all areas of your life.
Getting Started with Gratitude
Now that you know how much of an impact gratitude could have on your life, you might wonder how to get started. There are a number of ways you could begin to be thankful and no one way is the “right” way. Pick what works for your life and sounds like something you will do every day. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Create a gratitude journal and write out a list of things you’re grateful for every morning or evening.
- When you wake up in the morning, think of ten things you’re grateful for before you climb out of bed.
- Make gratitude art on a daily or weekly basis, and hang it where you can see it.
- Play gratitude games with your kids or partner. Everyone takes a turn naming one thing (great for long car rides).
- List 5 things you’re especially grateful for at the beginning of family meals. You can just think of 5 things when you’re eating alone.
- Use your mindfulness practice time to focus on feeling grateful.
- Write a letter to someone (or several people) telling them how grateful you are for them and/or something they did for you. Send it to really spread the good vibes.
- Tell your pets about your gratefulness in general and specifically for them. Animals are great listeners.
- Create gratefulness games for yourself throughout the day. Gratitude doesn’t have to be serious!