Gratitude is one of those things that most of us know is good to practice, but doing so is another story. Gratitude can help us be happier, reduce stress, and even sleep better, and if you’re new to it, today we’re exploring 5 benefits of it and how to get started.
Without fail, anytime I’m feelin’ like a negative Nancy, if I take a few minutes to think about and write down all the things I’m grateful for, my mood shifts. My perspective shifts. My outlook on life shifts.
It’s so easy to get caught up in negative thought patterns and to focus on what’s wrong in our lives, especially if we’re going through a tough time. But what if a few simple reflections on what’s good in our life, and consciously choosing gratitude for those things, could change how we feel? Turns out, it can. There are many studies that have been conducted on the power of gratitude. It’s so powerful, in fact, that it can help us be happier, reduce stress, and even sleep better.
Let’s explore some of these benefits and how to get started if you’re new to practicing gratitude or keeping a gratitude journal.
5 Benefits of Gratitude
There’s no surprise that focusing on what we already have in our lives – instead of what we wish we had or where we wish we were – can make us feel happier. This shift in mindset takes you from a place of scarcity, to a place of abundance. It’s simple. Focusing on what’s good in our lives leads to a much more positive mood and greater satisfaction in life.
2. Reduces Stress
Stress is often due to us “living” in the past or future. In fact, dwelling on the past or worrying about what’s ahead of us is a recipe for anxiety and even depression. But gratitude? This powerful emotion can help reduce stress and anxiety. Neuroscientist Glenn Foxx measured participants brain activity after inducing feelings of gratitude. His results revealed that their brains showed activity in a set of regions associated with empathy, pleasure and stress relief.This area of the brain is associated with understanding other people’s perspectives, empathy, and feelings of relief. This is also an area of the brain that is massively connected to the systems in the body and brain that regulate emotion and support the process of stress relief.
3. Improves Health
We all know the effects of stress on our body and that countless diseases are linked to high stress levels. If practicing gratitude can reduce stress and help us to relax (which in turn reduces things like inflammation) this may be a pretty big key in supporting our overall health. To be more specific, this article states studies done on gratitude’s effects on health include a greater resiliency to health issues, better coping with heart failure, and reduced levels of inflammatory biomarkers and depression,
4. Promotes Better Sleep
I’ve talked before about the importance of sleep. Proper sleep helps keep our appetite and inflammation levels in check, promotes cognitive function and enables our bodies to heal, regenerate and reduce stress. It’s by far one of the most importance things for our body, and interestingly enough, gratitude can help! In one study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, people keeping a gratitude journal slept on average 30 more minutes per night, felt more refreshed upon waking and found it easier to stay awake during the day.
5. Improves Relationships
Many things can lead to conflict or tension in a relationship, and often it’s a lack of gratitude – or a lack of expressing it – that can contribute to this tension. But there it is again: Gratitude can protect relationships from the negative effects of conflict! According to a study at the University of Georgia: …Spousal gratitude was the most important predictor of marital quality, regardless of the couple’s levels of financial strain, negative communication patterns, and their demographic makeup.How cool is that?! A little bit of gratitude really does go a long way. Quite literally, from our emotional and physical health, right down to our most important personal relationships.
3 Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal
1. Be Specific
The benefits of gratitude are more effective when you’re specific about what you’re grateful for. Elaborate on details, instead of just any ol’ list of random things. Instead of saying “I’m grateful for my friends”, try saying: “I’m grateful that I have people in my life who think of me and are always there when I need them”. You can even write down examples.
2. Less Is More
There’s no need to write in a gratitude journal every single day. There are studies that show greater feelings of happiness from writing in a gratitude journal just once per week as opposed to three or more times. But do what feels best for you!
3. Mix it Up: Add & Subtract
Normally when we think of writing a list of what we’re grateful for, we focus on “adding” those things to a list. But try subtracting, meaning, reflect on what your life would be like without certain things.
I’m grateful for a whole lot of things in my life, including all of you who are reading this right now! Thank you for being part of this online community. I’m so happy to be here to provide even just a glimmer of positivity or inspiration.