Thanksgiving is the main holiday associated with showing gratitude and many Americans will take the month of November as an opportunity to give thanks to family, friends and good moments in their lives. Research has shown that gratitude is positively linked to increased levels of happiness1, levels of wellbeing 2, longevity 3 and satisfaction with life4.
Not only does feeling grateful force us to think more positively but it also encourages us to assess our priorities thereby encouraging us to give greater space to what we value most. Gratitude has also been found to motivate engagement in positive behaviours leading to self-improvement.5 Given these benefits it would serve us all to practice it daily rather than just 1 month of the year.
As much as we often like to blame our surroundings, financial situations or in some cases the weather on our lack of happiness it is important to realize that achieving happiness can be influenced by practicing gratitude. Therefore, next time you catch yourself entertaining negative thoughts remember that you are in control of your own happiness.
If you need more convincing here are 5 ways in which feeling grateful can improve your life:
- Gratitude can improve your relationships.
A simple ‘thank you’ can make a world of difference when trying to rekindle your romance with a loved one. Gratitude was found to be one of the most important factors in achieving a satisfactory long term marriage.6 A study found that people who expressed gratitude towards their partner felt more positive about them and this in turn made their partners feel more connected and satisfied in the relationship.7
- Gratitude can improve productivity and performance.
Unsure as to how to motivate your staff? We suggest showing them some gratitude. It has been found that managers who show more gratitude towards their staff are more effective leaders as their employees feel more motivated to work harder. 8 In addition to increased productivity the work place becomes a friendlier and more enjoyable place benefitting happiness even further.
- Grateful people sleep better
If you are a worrier, you probably know that sleep does not come easily to those who entertain negative thoughts in bed. Negative thoughts and worrying can make it more difficult to fall asleep and also reduce the quality of sleep. Practicing gratitude was on the other hand found to enhance sleep quality and duration.9 Therefore, writing a gratitude journal or simply taking a few minutes to really focus on what you are grateful for, before bedtime can help shift your mind to a more positive state and bring on some sweet dreams.
- Gratitude is good for your heart
Gratitude is not just good for your soul but more surprisingly for your physical heart too. According to researchers, feelings of gratitude may improve hypertension and reduce the likelihood of sudden death from congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease10. Studies have also found an association between positive thinking and lower blood pressure levels.11
To note that the opposite is also true. Negative thoughts have been found to increase blood pressure levels regardless of the current mood or even levels of general optimisms/pessimism.12 It is therefore important to focus on gratitude and steer away from any negative thoughts as much as possible, not simply for our mental health and happiness, but also to prevent illness in our body.
5. Gratitude can make you more resilient.
It has been found that people who show gratitude have a more pro-active coping style and are more likely to seek out social support when needed. 13 They are also less likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and find it easier to bounce back when faced with traumatic experiences. 14 Overall showing gratitude helps you become more resilient by focusing your mind on positive thoughts.
Ways to incorporate gratitude in your life:
- Keep a daily gratitude journal
- Make time for family gratitude at dinner – family members take turns to say 3 things they are grateful for that day.
- Bedtime gratitude with children
- When experiencing negative thoughts or emotions throughout the day remind yourself of at least 3 things you feel grateful for thereby shifting your thoughts and changing your mood.
What can I be grateful for?
In the beginning it can be difficult to come up with a gratitude list but with practice it will be easier as you will start to notice things throughout the day that you wouldn’t have done otherwise. The list can include the big things but most importantly it should include the little things that we often take for granted such as:
- something nice someone said to you.
- a polite stranger who opened the door for you.
- a free parking space when you needed it.
- a hug from a loved one.
- a helpful hand.
- Someone who made you laugh
- your own humour, intelligence, empathic nature
- a good deed that you did
- good fortune that came your way or you made happen
- your family, work, love, sun, health, memories, animals, a walk, a dinner in good company…….
The list goes on and on as there are so many things to feel grateful for.
Let us know what you are feeling grateful for today!
Tina qualified as a Naturopath and Homeopath after completing a masters in Health Psychology. Her love for children and fascination with behaviour change lead her to become a Behaviour therapist for autistic children. She also worked for the NHS teaching children about nutrition, healthy lifestyle and self esteem. Her goal is to inspire people to want to change for the better and help people overcome the obstacles in their way.