Gratitude is an immensely powerful emotion that can have lasting positive impacts on both mental health and happiness. Making gratitude a daily practice can have numerous beneficial outcomes in your life – from improved sleep patterns to greater self-esteem gains and beyond.
Meditation and journaling can both provide great ways to practice gratitude, which have long-lasting positive effects on overall wellbeing. These activities are quick, straightforward and simple ways of cultivating thankfulness.
1. Boosts Self-Esteem
Practice gratitude can help you create a more optimistic outlook on life. Acknowledging all the good in your life and those around you is key to building up confidence and building self-esteem, even during trying times.
Practice of gratitude can also increase vitality and energy. A study with over 2,000 participants discovered that those most grateful were also the most energetic despite controlling for factors like levels of extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism and perceived social desirability (Chan, 2015).
Researchers have also discovered that practicing gratitude can strengthen your immune system by making you less susceptible to illnesses, like colds and flus. Furthermore, practicing gratitude may improve blood sugar control and potentially reduce your risk for diabetes.
According to a 2006 study, exercise can also enhance your mood by making you more hopeful and optimistic about the future. This may make stress lessening when faced with challenges like an exam or difficult project at work.
Stress resilience increases through gratitude, decreasing your chances of mental illness or disorder later. For instance, Vietnam War veterans with higher gratitude levels had lower symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder compared to those without such sentiments.
One effective way to increase gratitude is writing down a list of things you are thankful for each day – this practice doesn’t require much thought or time and should become part of your routine.
Some people find writing down things they are grateful for each morning difficult or impossible, but you can always make it part of your morning ritual to jot something down – be it something as simple as three things or more detailed like writing an entry in your journal to list everything you are grateful for.
2. Relieves Stress
Practicing gratitude can provide stress relief by training the body and mind to focus on what’s good in their lives. It also can help people manage negative emotions such as anxiety and depression by keeping thoughts and feelings present – something that’s beneficial to anyone, especially those struggling with chronic mental health conditions.
Improves Sleep Quality and Duration: Being thankful can trigger physical changes that activate the parasympathetic nervous system, helping relax both body and mind. Being grateful also enhances sleep quality by improving three factors that impact its onset and duration: mood, stress levels and sleep efficiency.
Being grateful makes you more likely to engage in behaviors that promote sleep quality, such as exercising and eating healthful food. Furthermore, practicing gratitude reduces your risk for numerous health problems like heart disease and high blood pressure.
Even with its many advantages, some people struggle with finding ways to express their gratitude. Luckily, there are a few straightforward strategies available that can help start and sustain a gratitude practice.
1. Reframe Experiences: Sometimes our thoughts become stuck in the past or future and prevent us from taking advantage of important opportunities that present themselves to us. Reframing our lives to realize how far we’ve come can open up new vistas of appreciation for life itself.
2. Write a Letter of Thank-You: Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania discovered that writing thank-you notes to people who have made an impactful difference in your life can increase happiness for up to one month following this activity – more effective than any other positive psychology intervention and its lasting benefits are clear.
3. Strengthen Immune System and Health: Research indicates that gratitude positively influences many body systems, such as your immune system and blood pressure and glucose control. Being thankful can actually lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease by encouraging healthier lifestyle habits such as eating well and exercising regularly.
4. Increases Self-Esteem: Expressing gratitude is proven to boost self-esteem and diminish feelings of low confidence, creating a more optimistic outlook on life and strengthening relationships between people.
3. Strengthens Relationships
One way to cultivate gratitude is to reflect on all the things in your life that make you thankful, from intangible aspects such as having been born into a loving family or possessing good health, to tangible aspects like tasting ripe strawberries or enjoying nature-rich environments such as forests or lakes.
Research indicates that practicing gratitude can improve relationships. It fosters an appreciation for those around us, as well as help make new acquaintances. Furthermore, practicing gratitude helps open dialogue about important topics such as mental health and happiness – an indispensable way to increase wellbeing.
Being grateful can also be therapeutic; it can help relieve the emotional trauma caused by stressful experiences or events and can reframe them so you can see how your strengths and positive traits will help carry you through tougher times.
Gratitude can also help encourage an attitude of generosity. Being grateful can inspire us to do more for others or give more than they expect, creating a cycle of kindness that strengthens relationships while improving mental health and well-being.
Researchers have discovered that practicing gratitude can help individuals feel less materialistic and focus more on intangible aspects of life such as health, career or school success, relationships with loved ones and finding peace.
Research has proven that practicing gratitude at work can lead to more productive work habits. Research shows that practicing gratitude at work can boost productivity, employee morale and management capabilities (Emmons & Crumpler 2000).
Rewarding those you appreciate also strengthens social networks, creating stronger support systems that help individuals cope with life’s hardships (Fredrickson 2004a and 2004b).
Gratefulness can help bring meaning and purpose to life. Studies show that feeling grateful has a direct impact on reducing depression and anxiety (Krause et al. 2015; Krause & Hayward 2015).
Practice gratitude can also improve emotional health by strengthening the links between your mind and heart. Furthermore, practicing gratitude may reduce levels of cortisol (a stress hormone associated with fatigue), helping lower blood pressure levels and thus decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease.
4. Improves Mental Health
Gratitude can be an extremely effective tool in supporting mental health and happiness. Studies demonstrate it improves everything from mood and relationships to overall physical and emotional well-being.
Meditation can improve your self-esteem, strengthen relationships and boost energy levels. Furthermore, it can encourage healthy behaviors like eating a balanced diet and taking care of one’s own health.
If your mental health is suffering, gratitude can be an effective strategy to combat depression and other detrimental feelings that could be impacting it. However, if anxiety or depression remain persistant symptoms for too long then professional assistance should be sought immediately.
Simon-Thomas notes that research has demonstrated the benefits of practicing gratitude regularly as an effective strategy for strengthening and protecting one’s brain, making it more resilient. More specifically, gratitude can stimulate the reward centers of the brain boosting dopamine production and creating an overall feeling of well-being.
Expressing gratitude can be both therapeutic and cathartic, allowing you to release strong feelings such as guilt or anger over past mistakes or losses that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to express in any other way. Expressing thanks can especially provide relief following stressful or trying experiences, giving you time and space for reflection before becoming more tranquil again.
Practicing gratitude is also an excellent way to strengthen both your immune system and body. Studies have revealed that those who regularly practice gratitude have lower risks of illness such as cardiovascular diseases and cancers.
Research suggests that gratitude may also reduce the risk of suicide. A 2015 study, for instance, discovered that those who regularly write grateful letters to family and friends had lower suicidal thoughts and were therefore less likely to take their own lives.
Another study, released in 2017, demonstrated that showing gratitude can activate the medial prefrontal cortex – an area responsible for emotions, memory, and decision-making – within your brain.
Gratefulness can also facilitate prosocial behavior, which refers to acts that aid others. Examples include picking up litter, volunteering or passing it forward.