Gratefulness is an immensely powerful emotion that leaves little room in your mind for negative ones like fear, anger and jealousy – making it an essential element of mindfulness practice.
Focus on cultivating deep feelings of appreciation rather than simply counting things you are thankful for, such as writing specifically about an event or person that makes an impressionful statement about them or you. Doing this may have more of an impactful message than listing generic attributes which make you grateful.
1. Boosts Your Mood
Studies show that cultivating gratitude helps ensure positive emotions last longer, giving more pleasure for less money (Fredrickson 2004).
Practicing gratitude can also help you feel more optimistic and resilient, helping to reframe challenges as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles to your success. Doing this increases emotional resiliency – an essential factor against mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety as well as substance use disorders.
Start practicing gratitude today by keeping a daily gratitude list, from small things such as appreciating someone holding the door open or engaging in friendly dialogue to writing out your list in full. Doing this also releases oxytocin, a natural chemical which strengthens relationships; check out our Gratitude in Difficult Times guided meditation to begin practicing it!
2. Reduces Stress
At times of stress, gratitude practice can help shift your attention towards more positive emotions like appreciation instead of negative ones like envy, resentment or self-criticism – all emotions often associated with anxiety.
Engaging in gratitude and positive emotions strengthens them over time, which creates emotional resilience that allows you to access them more readily in difficult times.
Studies show that people who regularly practice gratitude have lower cortisol levels, greater emotional regulation skills in response to negative stimuli and greater parasympathetic heart-rate variability (a sign of calmer nervous systems and reduced blood pressure) than those who do not practice gratitude regularly.
3. Improves Your Relationships
Practice gratitude can strengthen relationships by increasing feelings of connectedness to others and sparking gratitude from them in return. For example, when your partner expresses appreciation for something you did for them, this can inspire feelings of appreciation as well as the desire to reciprocate in kind.
Gratitude can also strengthen relationships by increasing positive emotions like elevation and humility, which have the power to lessen negative ones like depression, guilt, resentment, and vengeance. Furthermore, practicing gratitude can make us more resistant to the adverse effects of stress by decreasing cortisol levels in our bodies.
Try to integrate gratitude into your daily routine. For example, at the beginning of each day write down one thing that went well the previous day and why you are grateful for it, or take some time each day to tell someone how much they mean to you. Or do random acts of kindness (such as picking up litter or paying it forward). These simple methods of practicing prosocial behaviour will have lasting benefits in your family, workplace and community.
4. Improves Your Health
A practice of gratitude helps shift your focus away from negative emotions and discomforting sensations towards all the positive things present in your life. For instance, instead of dwelling on how unfortunate a flat tire may be for you personally, think instead about how lucky you are to have access to affordable repairs or close friends willing to help out when needed.
Gratefulness helps us become less materialistic and more focused on intangible values such as cultivating healthy relationships, accomplishing long-term goals and maintaining an optimistic attitude. Furthermore, gratitude fosters a sense of wellness which encourages people to exercise regularly, eat well and make time for annual health checks.
A gratitude practice may also improve your physical health by lowering levels of creatinine and C-reactive protein, two markers for heart disease. Plus it may promote better sleep by helping to relieve tension and anxiety.