Practicing Gratitude Can Dramatically Change Your Life
Some of us may have had Thanksgiving with friends or family at some point where it was expected to go around the table before eating to say what each person was grateful for. Perhaps you will be asked to participate again this year. Why? Well, the name of the day is THANKSgiving. While others amongst us will choose to spend the day in rest and relaxing solitude – but the importance of gratitude is that it has the ability to quickly and dramatically change anyone’s life.
Everyone has the ability to practice gratitude by being thankful for what we have and to express appreciation as it costs nothing and expends little time.
Daily writing down what you are grateful for is one of the simplest ways to improve satisfaction with life, but many haven’t heard that it actually changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps gray matter functioning better, while making us healthier and happier according to UCLA research. That work showed gratitude can boost serotonin and activate the brain stem to produce dopamine, very similar to Prozac’s effects but much cheaper with no side effects.
What’s the best way to practice gratitude?
Thanking people for any kindness as soon as possible and daily writing down three things you are grateful for is simple and proven very effective. As you might guess those three things should be substantially different each, or most, days.
Harvard researcher, Shawn Achor, conducted research showing if you write down three things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days in a row it significantly increases your level of optimism and, shockingly, that holds for the next six months! Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is obviously easy, free and takes little effort but the rewards are so extreme why wouldn’t you make a point to do it daily?
Just a few of the research proven benefits are:
- Gratitude is very good for your health. “Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” according to Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis. “It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep.”
- A study from UC San Diego’s School of Medicine found that people who were more grateful had better heart health, less inflammation and healthier heart rhythms.
- Yet another study found that gratitude can boost your immune system. Researchers at the U’s of Utah and Kentucky reported that stressed law students who had gratitude or optimism actually had more disease-fighting cells in their bodies.
- Gratitude adds more relationships to your life. While saying “thank you” constitutes good manners, showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to be open to becoming friends. So thank a stranger for holding the door or send a thank-you note to that colleague who helped you with a project, and acknowledging other people’s kindness can lead to new opportunities.
- Surprisingly people who keep a gratitude journal test at a reduced dietary fat intake around 25% lower and stress hormones like cortisol are 23 % lower in grateful people!
- Having a daily gratitude practice could actually reduce the effects of aging to the brain.
- Gratitude improves self-esteem. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athletes’ self-esteem, an essential component to optimal performance. What we think of ourselves affects all aspects of our lives.
- Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to a longer, happier life.
- Gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
- Grateful people sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful thoughts before bed, and you are likely to sleep better and longer.
So… what are three things you are grateful for right now?
Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.