Gratitude is the nature of being thankful or the willingness to show appreciation for others. When we experience moments of gratitude, we’re acknowledging the goodness in our lives. Whether we are giving or receiving the appreciation, we’re experiencing a moment of connection that can have long-lasting positive effects on our mental well-being. Studies have even connected having a prolonged attitude of gratitude to improved physical health.
A thankful heart is a healthy heart
Gratitude helps you reflect on the pleasant things in your life, thereby increasing your feelings of positivity. Adding this positivity in your daily life can also help reduce moments of depression or anxiety. Instead of using your time to scroll through your social media apps, you can interact with others in your life and share your appreciation for their efforts or kindness! Gratitude can increase your self-control as you become more accustomed to reflecting on the good in your life—what you have, as opposed to what you want or don’t have. This gives you better perspective on things you truly need and what your future can be, thanks to what you have today. Being grateful also helps your mind feel more relaxed, and helps you deal with stress in your life, instead of becoming overwhelmed by it. And a more relaxed way of living can have direct connection to lower blood pressure and a healthier heart. So, in many ways, a thankful heart is a healthy heart!
More benefits to having more gratitude
We just showed how gratitude can offer positive health benefits to your life with increased positivity and reduced stress. But that’s not all it offers. Gratitude also promotes better health by:
- Building stronger relationships. Showing appreciation can help you keep friends and make new ones. Studies show saying thank you to a new acquaintance makes them more open to an ongoing relationship.
- Enhancing your empathy and reducing aggression. People who use gratitude as a mindful approach to daily living also tend to show more sensitivity and empathy toward others they encounter. Reflecting on the positives in your life can open your eyes to what others may be experiencing, making you more understanding and less confrontational during stressful moments.
- Improving sleep quality. Reflecting on what you’re grateful for during the day can improve sleep by helping your mind focus on positive things before bed. Try spending just 15 minutes before bed jotting down a few sentiments of gratitude, and you may sleep better and longer.
- Boosting self-esteem. By sharing your appreciation of others with them, you not only boost their confidence, but you also boost your own because you’re spreading positivity within your environment. Your compliments matter, and so do you. Also, showing gratitude works in opposition of self-comparison, to strengthen your relationships and self-worth.
- Increasing mental strength. Recognizing all you have to be thankful for brings you optimism and focus when setting goals. Having positive, personal goals to strive for is better motivation than something superficial. This, combined with improved self-esteem, makes it easier for you to take on new challenges and recognize your support system when you need it.
Upgrade the gratitude in your life
Adding more gratitude to your life requires some time and practice until it becomes a healthy habit. Being mindful of the positive moments in your day help make it easier to recognize what’s impacting you. Maybe you’ll discover some things you’ve been taking for granted—but can now acknowledge with a thankful appreciation.
Here are some exercises to try that can help you discover the positivity of gratitude:
- Self-reflection. Reflecting on your day is a great way to bring things you’re grateful for to the forefront of your mind.
- Start a journal. Each night, when you take time to reflect on your day, consider writing everything you recall in a gratitude journal.
- Use positive language and try not to complain, criticize or gossip. Simply adopting a mindset that is less toxic can help you feel more grateful and recognize the good in your day.
- Serve or help others. We all like it when we don’t have to do a chore, like making lunch, organizing our desk, washing dishes, sweeping the floors, etc. So, if you’re able-bodied and willing to do some of these small things for a coworker, family member or friend, it will be greatly appreciated. And you’ll feel rewarded when the job is done.
- Go for a reflective walk. Take a few minutes by yourself and see how many positive things you can find on your walk: the smell of fresh air, hearing the birds in the trees, seeing the colors of the sky. Perhaps you’ll be grateful for simply getting a few extra steps in today.
- Write thank you cards. As an exercise you can do over a month’s time, buy a box of blank thank you cards and write three cards each week for the month. When you’re done, that’ll be 12 moments of gratitude. You don’t even have to send them to the recipient—but bonus points if you do!
No matter what you choose, by adopting an attitude of gratitude you’ll be affecting your life and the lives of those around you for the better. Showing appreciation for the positive things in your life builds character, relieves stress and makes for happier living. So, go out and spread some appreciation! You’ll thank yourself for doing so!
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant as medical advice.