Years ago the only ones waffling on about the benefits of being grateful or showing gratitude were religious folk, you know… priests, ministers, and religious eduction teachers. Nowadays though, gratitude is basically a scientific field with countless studies showing the many benefits of establishing an attitude of gratitude.
People talk about the numerous and far reach benefits of adopting a grateful philosophy, going so far to even attribute positive changes in career, health, personality, emotional health and social presence to a simple change in attitude. The flow on, and key effect being “happiness”… all these articles, motivational talks, memes, and self help books boil down to one thing…
In an interview with Gretchen Rubin, author and University of Houtson research professor Brené Brown said “I think the change [in her happiness levels] is the result of letting go of perfectionism, embracing vulnerability, and practicing gratitude.” Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar, suggests happiness is born from gratitude.
Fuck it! I thought, I do want to be happy and this sounds too easy. So I challenged myself to take a moment at the end of each day to mentally list 3 things I was grateful for that day, the point, to find out the answer first hand. Does being grateful and showing gratitude make you happier? Imagine if gratitude was the answer, or at least part of the answer and I just never tried? It’s not cost prohibitive, it doesn’t require a huge time investment and in fact doesn’t require much at all. You don’t need to write it down, you don’t need to update your social media… being grateful needn’t be a three circus or reality tv series.
Through all of my reading and research into gratitude, I found multiple so-called benefits of expressing gratitude.
Studies show that expressing gratitude can help you sleep better at night, which in turn has a positive impact on your mood and health. Not only providing you with a restful nights sleep, gratitude has been shown to reduce feelings depression as it obviously promotes think optimistically and being more positive.
Similarly gratitude lessens anxiety which leads to an overall feeling of peace. Being rested and feeling positive from the flow on effects of expressing gratitude increases your heart health through greater attention to positive behaviours… like fitness and nutrition as well as reduced inflammation.
Gratitude also strengthens the memory, studies show that elderly adults practicing gratitude are shown to have improved their overall sense of well-being and quality of life.
For me though, I did feel mentally stronger. During challenging situations I’ve managed to turn my thinking around and see things from a place of gratitude. I’m not the worlds most positive person, negativity is sometimes a key part of my sarcastic humour but I’m finding added positivity has it’s benefits although there is always work to be done. I have to work on my negative attitude towards my own abilities (or lack there of). I often unfairly compare myself to others rather than focusing on myself.
I’ll break the “how-to” down for you...
- Make a regular time… whether it’s each day or each week. Make a date and stick to it. I chose 8:30pm each night because it was before bedtime and felt like I was ending the day on a high note.
Pick a time that is quiet and when you won’t necessarily get interrupted, this is an activity just for you!
- Start by writing down what you’re grateful for… writing it down will cement things and will help encourage the thought process initially. Writing it down will force you take a break and acknowledge these things properly. What you write can be just for you, it doesn’t need to be publicly shared.
If it helps buy a nice hard covered note book and pen to write with… make it a ritual!
- Start small… you don’t need to leap straight to every day. Start small with weekly if it’s easier.
- Practice acknowledging things your grateful for throughout the day, you needn’t write them down… just take a moment to acknowledge to yourself. If you’re feeling really crazy, practice out loud in conversation with friends and family, there’s a strange power from saying out loud “I’m grateful for…“
- Allow yourself to be human, not everything your grateful for will be profoundly deep and some days you’ll spend a while coming up with things. Of course you can repeat things! That’s 100% allowed…
Hell, I included I was grateful for coffee and high fives, which of course I am, but it’s not quite the same level as clean drinking water.
Don’t stop once you see positive results…
Gratitude Influences Sleep Through The Mechanism of Pre-sleep cognitions Gratitude and Depressive Symptoms: the role of positive reframing and positive Positive Psychological Attributes and Cardiac Outcomes A Program of Positive Intervention in the Elderly