We all want a happy life. A great job, a perfect family, financial stability, and a great social life! And in this indefinite pursuit of happiness that is mostly like a mirage, how often do we spare a minute to thank what we already have at this very moment?
It may sound corny, but research clearly demonstrates that you would be happier if you cultivated an “attitude of gratitude.” There’s evidence to suggest that being grateful, despite your circumstances, can improve every single area of your life, and can bring in more things to be grateful for. The universe listens when you express it, and responds by providing you with more things to be grateful for. That’s the magic of gratitude. And in this article, we’ll help you discover how to find it more often.
So what exactly is gratitude and how can you cultivate it in your lives for a fulfilled, positive life?
What Exactly is Gratitude?
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.
Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present. In addition, behavioral and psychological research has shown the surprising life improvements that can stem from the practice of gratitude. Giving thanks makes people happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships, it improves physical and mental health, and reduces stress.
What are the benefits of Gratitude?
1. Gratitude gives you happiness that lasts
Lots of things, from a compliment to a sugary treat, can bring little bursts of happiness. Gratitude is something that leads to much more sustainable forms of happiness, because it’s not based on immediate gratification; it’s a frame of mind. If you regularly take time to express gratitude and thankfulness, you’re likely to see results. In the pursuit of happiness and life satisfaction, gratitude offers a long-lasting effect in a positive-feedback loop of sorts. Thus, the more gratitude we experience and express, the more situations and people we may find to express gratitude towards.
2. Improves Mental Health
People who feel grateful experience a reduction in the level of cortisol, the stress hormone. It also results in better cardiac functioning and more resilience to emotional setbacks and negative experiences. By practicing gratitude we can handle stress better than others. By merely acknowledging and appreciating the little things in life, we can rewire the brain to deal with the present circumstances with more awareness and broader perception. Showing gratitude can also help in:A) Expressing gratitude can improve your mood.
People who regularly express gratitude for the positive things in their life are shown to be happier overall, leading to lower rates of stress and depression.B) Showing gratitude can make you more optimistic.
Those who express gratitude regularly appear to have a more positive outlook on life. Gratitude causes the brain to produce an increase in dopamine (a neurotransmitter that's related to feelings of pleasure and reward-motivated behavior) and serotonin (a neurotransmitter believed to help regulate mood and social behavior)
C) Helps calm the mind
Gratitude helps to calm the emotional brain because it gives you the ability to analyze and respond rather than give in to your initial reaction to what is arising.D) Sharing gratitude can help reduce anxiety and depression
By reducing the stress hormones and managing the autonomic nervous system functions, gratitude significantly reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety. Feelings of gratitude are associated with an increase in the neural modulation of the prefrontal cortex, the brain site responsible for managing negative emotions like guilt, shame, and violence.
3. Physical Health benefits
Numerous studies have examined the relationship between gratitude and physical health, such as cardiovascular health, stress and inflammation, pain perception, and sleep. One study found that keeping a gratitude journal improved blood pressure. Another study found that focusing on things to be grateful about before bed each night aided in a calm mind and better sleep. Yet another study found that people who kept a gratitude journal for 15 days reported fewer headaches, clearer skin, less stomach pain, and reduced congestion.
4. Gratitude Facilitates Social Well-Being
Grateful People Have Better relationships. Being able to recognize the good that someone else brings to your life will help you appreciate that person more. Gratitude interventions such as reflecting on positive daily events or keeping a gratitude journal can facilitate social well-being. Keeping a gratitude diary increased students' sense of belonging. A study found that expressions of gratitude by managers motivated their employees to be more productive in their daily work. Gratitude enhances empathy, and in turn, reduces aggression. This is mainly because empathy is the ability to be sensitive toward and understand people's intentions and emotions. When individuals are empathetic, they are less likely to be confrontational and aggressive.
6. Facilitates better sleep
When it comes to bedtime rituals for better sleep, gratitude is less well known but probably far more effective than fluffing pillows or sipping a nice cup of green tea. In fact, just jotting down a few reasons to feel thankful before bed could net you an extra half hour of quality sleep time.
7. Career and Life Goals
One way gratitude can help you further your goals is by shifting your perspective to realize how far you’ve already come. Focusing too much on the areas of your life in need of improvement, can cast a shadow on your successes .Give yourself credit for tackling and conquering all obstacles along the way. Once you truly see those things, watch how your motivation to continue increases.
8. Stronger Self-Control
Self-Control helps with discipline and focus. Long-term well-being can benefit from self-control, for example, resisting nicotine in cigarettes for someone who is trying to quit smoking. Self-control helps us stick to the better choice for our long-term health, financial future, and well-being.
9. Gratitude makes you less materialistic
There are several theories regarding why materialistic people feel less gratitude. A materialistic outlook, which looks for satisfaction in what one does not have, would impair the ability to be grateful for what one has now. The key is to be willing and able to shift one’s focus from fretting about what they desire to savoring and appreciating what they do have.
How to cultivate gratitude in your daily routine?
The benefits of gratitude and being grateful are clear. So how do we go about tapping into these benefits? Well, there are several exercises and methods that you can implement to practise gratitude. We’ve picked out some of the most common ways to be more grateful:
Gratitude meditation can improve emotion regulation and self-motivation. Gratitude meditation focuses on being thankful for various elements of your life and the world around you. By meditating, you are able to be present and in the moment. What better time to give thanks? Focus on something you’re grateful for each time you meditate and spend your time thinking about how thankful you are for that thing or person, moment etc.
2. Morning Gratitude Affirmations
Morning affirmations are positive statements of gratitude you say to yourself at the start of the day. It is ideal to say/listen to them daily when you are in a relaxed state of mind after you wake up in the morning. You can play an audio or video and repeat them yourself. Or you can make posters and stick them where you can see them. Or just write them out or say them aloud or in mind. It is entirely up to you to decide how you want to use them. Choose affirmations of appreciation from all spheres of your life and make sure they include your thoughts and actions. You can compile the list from already existing affirmations or write them yourself. One important point to remember is to involve your feelings in the process. Feel gratitude, happiness, joy, and appreciation from the bottom of your heart. Feel proud of your achievements and congratulate yourself for leading a meaningful life.
3. Gratitude Mapping
If you’re a visual learner, this is the perfect way to express gratitude. You create a visual mood board that contains all of the things you’re grateful for. Once you’ve made it, you place it somewhere prominent to remind yourself to be thankful every day.
4. Gratitude Jars
Another visual method of practising gratitude is to write down short notes of the things you’re grateful for and keeping them in a jar or container. This will not only give you a visual manifestation of the things you’re thankful for, but you can also read the notes back when you need a reminder.
5. Do Something kind for others
Gratitude isn’t just about what it can do for you, it’s also a powerful tool to impact the other people in your life.The wonderful thing is, when you practice gratitude, you’re more likely to be kind to others, and when you are kind to others, you feel more gratitude. For many people, the key to having more gratitude is to give back to others in their local community. Not only will it make you more grateful for the things that you may take for granted, but studies have shown that volunteering for the purpose of helping others increases our own well-being, and thus our ability to have more gratitude.
6. Count your blessings, literally
Can you write down 20 things you are grateful for in life? 50 things? Find a quiet spot and take the challenge of writing down 20 things you feel blessed to have in your life. You can even kick-off your gratitude journal with this list. If you need help finding things to be grateful for, think about what you may be taking for granted like a hot shower, the house you live in, good friends, clean water, your pet, etc. Creating this list of blessings is a powerful exercise because as you write down all that you are grateful for, negative feelings dissolve as happier feelings rise-up.
7. Gratitude Journals
Perhaps the most common and effective way to practise being grateful is through a journal. Essentially, this is just like writing a diary, except rather than recounting the day’s events, you record the things that you’re grateful for. Express self-gratitude and thanks for your life by setting aside time each week to jot down a few sentences of what you are thankful for. This isn’t something you need to do every day. A study suggests that one to three times per week may be sufficient. When you write your gratitude journal, you should record five to ten things that you’re grateful for.
8. Gratitude Journal prompts
Of course, it might not be that easy to identify things to be thankful for. Below, we’ve highlighted some gratitude journal prompts that can help you across all ways of expressing gratefulness. If you’re looking for gratitude examples, these can help:
A) Simple pleasures. Think about some of the everyday things that you take joy in. A nice cup of coffee, your favourite song, people around you, a book? Anything that has brought you pleasure can be celebrated.
B) Happy memories. It doesn’t have to be in there here and now,you could focus on positive moments from the past. Memorable days, happy events, or times when you’ve felt content are all worth being grateful for.
C) Important people. Your friends, family, and even your colleagues can play a big role in your life. Think about the people whose love and support has helped you through difficult times and those who have been there with you for the good times.
D) Nature. The world around us is full of wonder and beauty. Consider something from your environment that you find appealing or amazing, or simply enjoyable. The warm sun on your face, the smell of freshly cut grass, or the beauty of Spring’s first bloom.
E) Acts of kindness. If someone has done something nice for you, no matter how small, being grateful can enhance your positive feelings. Similarly, if you’ve carried out a kind act, celebrate the mutually shared experience.
F) Accomplishments. Throughout your life, you will have worked towards goals, mastered skills, and demonstrated your abilities. Highlighting these accomplishments can help to boost your self-esteem.
Once you become oriented toward looking for things to be grateful for, you will find that you begin to appreciate simple pleasures and things that you previously took for granted. Gratitude should not be just a reaction to getting what you want, but an all-the-time gratitude, the kind where you notice the little things and where you constantly look for the good even in unpleasant situations. Today, start bringing gratitude to your experiences, instead of waiting for a positive experience in order to feel grateful; in this way, you’ll be on your way toward becoming a master of gratitude.
- Drishti Khurana