Why practice Gratitude?
Can you name something that is good for your body and mind, reduces stress, and builds resiliency? Oh, and is free, and can be done anywhere?
Research shows that people that practice gratitude report improved sleep, self-esteem, performance, and psychological and physical health. Studies even show that short-term gratitude practices can have longer term benefits.
According to research by Robert Emmons, an American psychologist that has been a leader in the study of gratitude, individuals that practice gratitude report a host of benefits:
Stronger immune systems
Less bothered by aches and pains
Lower blood pressure
Exercise more and take better care of their health
Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
Higher levels of positive emotions
More alert, alive, and awake
More joy and pleasure
More optimism and happiness
More helpful, generous, and compassionate
Feel less lonely and isolated.
But what do we actually mean when we say “gratitude”? According to Emmons and others, there are two parts of gratitude: the first is recognizing goodness, the second is recognizing the source of the goodness.
So living with an attitude of gratitude means taking the time to notice the positive things, and then recognize that they come from a source outside ourselves.
For example, I am grateful for the run I went on this morning. The first part of my gratitude is recognizing that going for a run was a positive thing. The second part is that I recognize there were things outside of my conscious being that made my run possible. Here are a few things I came up with: I’m blessed to have the ability to run, there is a nice running path near my home, my community is safe, I got a good night of sleep that allowed me to feel rested, my job affords me the ability to purchase running shoes, my partner encourages me to work toward my goal, I have clean water to drink. Even though I can recognize the positive attributes in myself that also made my run possible (dedication, drive, practice, etc.) my gratitude intentionally examines outside factors.
Gratitude is a mindset that can be practiced in good times and in times of adversity. It can help build resiliency and help you to see the best out of any situation. Gratitude is not a naïve way of looking at the world, and doesn’t cause laziness. Instead, research shows that those that practice gratitude are actually more likely to reach their goals!
There are many ways to practice gratitude, so it can be helpful to try different practices to see what you like best, or to continue refreshing your attitude of gratitude with new skills and approaches!