The Significance of Gratitude - Thankful people are happy and healthy people
Few things in life are as integral to our well-being as gratitude. That’s the conclusion of psychologist Robert Emmons, who has spent nearly his entire career studying this topic.
When you focus on what can be considered as your blessings in life, you tend to be happier, healthier and you experience a deeper sense of fulfillment. The habit of gratitude has a number of life-affirming, positive effects.
- Helps you better cope with stress.
- Improves your overall health and well-being.
- Helps you develop stronger bonds and relationships.
- Make you feel more secure and self-assured.
- Increases overall happiness and self-satisfaction.
- Keeps you inspired and increases creativity.
Gratitude can be summed up as a way of thinking where you acknowledge what you have and be thankful for it, rather than focusing on what you don’t have. That sounds like an easy thing to do, but it’s not. Our minds are more inclined to focus on what’s going wrong – it’s a survival instinct. This is the reason why we don’t appreciate the value of what we have, and take it for granted. That’s why many of us live in a state of dissatisfaction.
Being grateful in challenging situations
But how do you feel grateful in the face of challenges and disappointments? When dreams fail and plans don’t push through, or if you lost someone you love… how can anyone be thankful? Although we know the positive effects of an attitude of gratefulness, practicing it and training our minds to see the good despite unfavorable situations, is like going against our emotions. We feel. We want. We crave. How can we train our mind to remain thankful when we feel dissatisfied with so many aspects of our life?
- Keep a journal. Every day, or at the end of every week, write down the things that you should be grateful for. It’s easy to lose track and focus on the negativities. This list will keep the positive at the forefront of your thoughts.
- Remember the Past. Looking back on past challenges that you’ve overcome will inspire you and give you more confidence about the future.
- Avoid Negative People. They say that you are greatly influenced by the 5 people closest to you. Choose your company wisely.
- Pay it forward. The best way to feel thankful for what you have is to extend a little kindness to those less fortunate. Knowing that you’ve helped someone, makes you appreciate your capacity to help and makes you feel thankful for your blessings.
How gratitude influences you and your life
There is a complicated connection between the mind and the body. All major bodily functions are in some way or the other affected by what goes on in the mind. Your thoughts and beliefs have the power of bringing out psychological and physiological changes, and the more positive thoughts you encourage, the better the effects.
People who practice gratitude are happier, exercise more, have less physical problems and remain more optimistic about life. Gratitude also affects intangible qualities like determination, altruism, energy, attention and social sensibilities, as well as the quality of sleep. The health benefits are so evident that research is showing clear links between gratitude and the prevention of serious physical conditions.
Why practice gratitude? Research and Findings
All over the world, noted scientists and psychologists have carried out important research to determine the real effects of gratitude.
One study separates people into three groups and ask them to maintain a journal of their daily lives. While one group is asked to record only unpleasant experiences, the other is asked to record only things they are grateful for. The third group is asked merely to record events without any bias as to content, to serve as the control group. With this kind of research, multiple researchers have found the following outcomes with the “gratitude group”:
- They are more likely to be in control of situations and help out others
- They remain more alert and enthusiastic
- They are more connected socially
- They are more determined, optimistic and happier in general
- They display greater resolve towards achieving goals
- They exhibit less signs of physical problems show more signs of happiness and contentment
- They sleep better and are less susceptible to common problems like headaches and infections
There is a lot of wisdom in the saying Count Your Blessings. Helen Keller said it best when she said: “So much has been given to me, I have no time to ponder over that which has been denied.”
Given her situation, that statement is the ultimate hallmark of a grateful person. She was deaf and blind.
What about you? What are you grateful for today?
- Umass Dartmouth: The Importance of Gratitude
- The Change Blog: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life
- Greater Good In Action: Science based practices for a meaningful life: Why Gratitude is Good
- LA Times: The Benefits of Gratitude