As the seasons begin to change from fall to winter we settle in for the end of the year and our holiday celebrations. These celebrations are a time for us to gather with family and friends to share moments of joy, laughter and community. This is a time of the year to be thankful and show gratitude for the bounties of spring and summer as we prepare for the renewal of spring and summer to come. Let’s make this holiday season special with gratitude.
Gratitude is a way for us to show appreciation for what we have – life, health, family, friends, faith, purpose, etc. – instead of always chasing after something new in the hopes it will make us happier or thinking we can’t feel happy until all our physical and material needs are met. During difficult times, it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed or drained by life. Negative feelings and thoughts can creep in, which can make it difficult to see the positives. However, one simple practice, gratitude, can help to alleviate these feelings. Gratitude helps us to refocus on what we have rather than what we don’t. The key to making gratitude a habit is simply taking the time—once a day—to focus on the experience of gratitude.
So how can we practice gratitude?
- Each day, think of three things you’re thankful for. Make it a daily habit to visualize what’s good in your life.
- Start a gratitude journal so you can see how much there is to be thankful for.
- Thank someone new every week for something you appreciate that they did or said.
- Meditate, connect to Spirit/God/Creator, and allow your heart to be filled.
- Saying a blessing of gratitude before a meal
Here are some of the benefits of practicing gratitude:
It can make you happier.
A 2003 study by the American Psychological Association found that people who practiced gratitude reported “considerably more satisfaction with their lives as a whole”. They were more optimistic about the future and felt deeper connections with others. The study concluded that practicing gratitude resulted in substantial and consistent improvements in a person’s perception of their wellbeing.
It can improve your mental wellbeing
When it comes to your mental health, gratitude goes beyond just happiness. Studies have shown that being grateful can make you more optimistic, improve your mood, and even lower rates of stress and depression.
However, a recent study from 2020 found that the benefits of using gratitude only for anxiety and depression had a limited impact on those symptoms. Often there are other elements involved than just our outlook and those are the pieces that we look at in the SC Vitality Center with our clients. Practicing gratitude is a piece of the puzzle.
It can improve your physical health
We’ve spoken about gratitude as an emotional helper, however, one study from 2014 showed a positive correlation between expressing/feeling gratitude and self-reported physical health, desire for healthy activities, and a willingness to seek help for health concerns.
It can enhance self-esteem and positive emotions
As well as being a positive emotion in itself, gratitude also tends to bring out the best in other areas of life like work, physical health and interpersonal relationships. According to Research from 2017, positive emotions allow people to build psychological, intellectual, and social resources. What’s more, having a practice like gratitude can help motivate us to engage in positive behaviors that lead to our self-improvement. The study found evidence that expressing gratitude helps people in feeling emotions like connectedness, awe, wonder and humility.
It can help you make friends
Gratitude is part of our biology and flows from an idea of reciprocity. These actions allow us to exchange things for the mutual benefit of both parties. When someone does something nice for us, our brains react to make us want to repay the “favor”, meaning we care for others and others care about us. It is always good to remember The Golden Rule: Treat others in the way that you wish they would treat you.
Research has shown that even something as small as thanking a new acquaintance for their help can make a social relationship more likely. What’s more, other studies have shown that being grateful towards your partner can boost your romantic relationships.
As you can see practicing gratitude is a powerful practice to help not only ourselves but also the lives of everyone around us. And the most beautiful thing is that this one practice brings all of these positive things into our lives.
If you are having trouble connecting to gratitude or just feel disconnected in some way then think to call for your Discover Vitality Visit at the Center where we help people reconnect to the beauty of life.