Feeling grateful is more than a nice feeling. The more you feel grateful, the luckier you feel and the happier you are. You’re less stressed and your outlook, more positive. And healthier, too. Who would not want that? Let me explain how gratitude works and how you can tap into it.
First, let’s be clear what gratitude is. It comes from the Latin word gratus, which means "thankful, pleasing." Gratitude is a complex emotion that involves a combination of cognitive, emotional, and behavioural processes. At its core, it involves recognising and acknowledging the good things in your life and feeling a sense of appreciation and thankfulness for them.
“The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness; a warm feeling of goodwill towards a benefactor.” OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY
“What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.” OPRAH WINFREY
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” ECKHART TOLLE
Here’s proof it works:
There is growing evidence that practicing gratitude can have a positive impact on physical health. Here are just a few handfuls of way:
Better Sleep. A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that individuals who wrote down things they were grateful for before bed reported better sleep quality and felt more refreshed in the morning.
Improved heart health. In a study published in the journal Spirituality in Clinical Practice, researchers found that gratitude was associated with better heart health. The study found that people who expressed gratitude had lower levels of inflammation and improved heart rate variability, which is a marker of better cardiac health.
Reduced pain. In a study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing, researchers found that practicing gratitude helped reduce chronic pain. Those who kept a daily gratitude journal reported lower levels of pain and were more likely to engage in healthy habits like exercise and stretching, which further benefited their health.
Improved sleep. The Journal of Psychosomatic Research found people slept better and deeper when they practised gratitude – so count your blessings and not sheep.
Better relationships. When you practise gratitude, you are a better person to be around, and this has an impact on how others relate to you.
Lower blood pressure. In a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, researchers found people who practiced gratitude had lower blood pressure levels than those who did not. The study found those who expressed gratitude had lower levels of stress and anxiety, which are known to contribute to high blood pressure.
Lowers HbA1c (a blood sugar marker). If you’re a woman, being grateful can also lower your HbA1c markers, which is one indicator of diabetes. The same reduction was not noted in men, but it has also been seen in adolescent type 1 diabetics.
Helps you reframe situations. Want to reframe negative experiences in a more positive light? By focusing on things you're thankful for, you can shift your perspective and find a sense of meaning or purpose in difficult situations.
Gratitude generates positive emotions like joy, contentment, and happiness. These emotions can have a range of benefits, including improved mood, increased resilience, and reduced stress
Improves social connections. Gratitude strengthens social connections and builds positive relationships with others. When you give love and appreciation, you’re more likely to receive it back.
So, now you know that gratitude is a good thing, I know you’ll want to try it for yourself. Here’s how:
Keep a gratitude journal. Set aside a few minutes each day to write down three things you're grateful for. This could be anything from the people in your life to the simple pleasures of daily life. By focusing on the good things in your life, you can start to build a more positive outlook.
Express gratitude to others. Take the time to thank the people in your life who have made a positive impact on you. This could be a friend who has been there for you during a tough time, a co-worker who helped you out on a project, or a family member who has supported you in some way. By expressing your gratitude, you can strengthen your relationships and build a sense of connection with others.
Practice mindfulness. Gratitude and mindfulness go hand in hand. Take a few minutes each day to simply focus on the present moment and appreciate the world around you. This could be as simple as taking a walk outside and noticing the beauty of nature or savouring a cup of tea and enjoying the taste and aroma.
Create a gratitude jar. Get a jar or container and write down things you're grateful for on small pieces of paper. Whenever you're feeling down or need a reminder of the good things in your life, you can reach into the jar and read through the notes.
Start a gratitude challenge with friends or family. Invite others to join you in practicing gratitude. You can set a goal of writing down three things you're grateful for each day for a certain period of time, and then come together to share your experiences and reflections. It's also a great practice to do together with a young family. Invite everyone around the dinner table to share things they were grateful for that day.
Practicing gratitude is a habit that takes time and effort to cultivate but the benefits are enormous. Start small and be consistent, and over time you may find that it becomes easier to focus on the positive things in your life.
For guided mindfulness practices incorporating gratitude, you could check out the app 'Insight Timer' which I am loving at the moment. Or you can join me in my Yoga classes every week in Derbyshire.