“Gratitude opens the door to the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe. You open the door through gratitude.” — Deepak Chopra
This is the time of year we discuss the concept of gratitude and being thankful. Some of us will take it to heart and practice gratitude at the beginning of the holiday season. Others will quickly dismiss the idea and move on to overwhelmingly long to-do lists. If you find yourself in the latter category you are not alone. When you reflect on what it means to be grateful and learn how to practice gratitude, you will be amazed at how powerful it can be in your life. You will also be amazed at the many benefits it can bring.
What is Gratitude?
Simply put, gratitude is the state of being grateful or thankful. It is acknowledgement of something that is positive, good, beneficial, and appreciated. It can come in a simple moment of thought or as a feeling that washes over us. Many experts are beginning to understand gratitude as a practice rather than a characteristic or an attitude. The practice of gratitude can happen in many ways, yet this practice is what increases our ability to be grateful and yield many positive benefits.
What are the Benefits?
When we feel down or upset, practicing gratitude can help bring new perspectives to current struggles. It allows us to focus on what we have, in spite of what we have lost. It allows us to realize that our intense frustration may happen over a small issue. It allows us to better equate our level of emotion to the size of the problem. It doesn’t take away the hurt or pain, but allows us to shift our emotion and enhance our ability to cope with it.
Increased Positive Feelings and Characteristics
Gratitude increases hope, resilience, optimism, and mental strength — the qualities that build strength to endure challenges and enhance quality of life. Gratitude also leads to greater joy in our lives. According to researcher, Brene Brown, “Practicing gratitude invites joy into our life.” She found that people who report joy in their lives also practice gratitude.
Decreased Challenging Feelings and Characteristics
Research also relates gratitude with decreased levels of stress and feelings of envy, resentment, frustration, and regret. Practicing gratitude shifts focus away from these feelings thereby allowing greater perspective and balance. When we experience reactions such as frustration, practicing gratitude provides an antidote that creates stability in our thinking and allows us to cope with the experience.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits
Researchers found many physical health benefits that correlate with people who practice gratitude. Such benefits include fewer complaints of aches and pains, lower blood pressure, better sleep quality, and longer duration of sleep. They also correlated an increased level of exercise with those who practice gratitude.
Enhanced Interpersonal Relationships
Practicing gratitude in your life is a prosocial skill that enhances relationships. You will naturally strengthen relationships when you are grateful for others and express your appreciation. Gratitude allows you to focus on the positive qualities of others and what you appreciate about your relationship. It can also lead to a larger social network.
Three Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude Today
Begin to practice gratitude today and experience the positive effect it has. Many ways exist for practicing gratitude, here are 3 ideas to get you started.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal
Use a journal to write down the things for which you are grateful. This can be a 5-15 minute task each day.
- Incorporate Gratitude into your Family Routine
Pick one night of the week (or every night) and ask everyone to identify something for which they are grateful.
- Find Gratitude in your Complaints
When you find yourself complaining, stop and identify what you can be grateful for in the situation.
“It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us joyful.” — David Rast
“When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.” — Kristin Armstrong