You may have heard the saying attitude of gratitude. It’s a great little rhyme to remind us to live a life of gratitude – and practice it! When we practice being thankful on a regular basis, it not only impacts our mental and physical health, but those around you as well.
The Definition of Gratitude
The emotion of gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” We are familiar with the act of “thank you” to represent gratitude, but it also includes thinking on positive things that have happened during the day or your life, meditating on positive thoughts, and feeling grateful.
The Health of Gratitude
Beyond making someone feel appreciated, gratitude also has other benefits. In fact, there are physical health benefits associated with the act of gratitude. The Greater Good Science Center produced a list of benefits to gratitude.
For the individual:
- increased happiness and optimism for the future
- improved mental wellbeing
- greater satisfaction with life
- increased self-esteem
- better physical health
- better sleep
- less fatigue
- lower levels of cellular inflammation
- encourages the development of patience, humility, and wisdom
Research has shown that consciously practicing gratitude can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. In fact, studies have found that a single act of thoughtful gratitude produces an immediate 10% increase in happiness and a 35% reduction in depressive symptoms. These effects disappeared within 3-6 months, which reminds us to practice gratitude over and over.
In addition to these above benefits, psychologically, the act of gratitude has been shown to reduce toxic emotions like envy, frustration, resentment, and regret. Those who focus on gratitude have even been reported to visit the doctor less!
The Act of Gratitude
So, how do you practice gratitude in your everyday life? Here are some easy-to-do exercises to strengthen your gratitude muscles:
- Say thank you
- Keep a gratitude journal or gratitude jar
- Write handwritten thank-you notes
- Think/meditate on positive thoughts
- Create gratitude rituals
- Put sticky notes around your home and workspace to remind you to be grateful
Our daily lives are fill of distractions and stress, and we often let our small achievements go unnoticed, even internally. Think about the past few days – what have you accomplished that went unnoticed? Did you cook a delicious meal, start a new book or chat with a loved one? Take a moment to celebrate that, to express gratitude for life’s everyday joys. Perhaps you might even write it down in a journal. This simple act that we’ve all been taught since we were born (Moms always remind you to say “thank you!”), has far-reaching benefits so start flexing your muscles of gratitude today.