Benefits of Living with Gratitude
The concept of gratitude is a common theme across most fitness and health thought leadership with many experts preaching gratitude as a practice with proven physical, mental and social benefits. With time, the practitioner of grateful living will experience enhanced wellbeing. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, gratitude often gets a little extra shine, as many people have traditions with friends and family involving giving thanks such as organizing food drives, volunteering and being more generous with donations to favorite charities and causes. However, on a daily basis, we often experience barriers to gratitude because we live in a society that rewards us when we’re competitive and ambitious, constantly working towards our wants and perceived needs. We’re focused on finding means to a more affluent lifestyle and better financial situation because we believe these are the things that make us happier and more successful. We feel like failures when we fall short of our goals, even when we give our best efforts.
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., at the University of California, Davis. studied the impact of gratitude on physical health, psychological well-being, and on our relationships with others for over a decade. He found that gratitude comes with the following benefits:
- Stronger immune systems
- Lower blood pressure
- Higher inclination to exercise and take better care of health
- Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
- Higher levels of positive emotions.
- More alert, alive, and awake.
- More joy, optimism, happiness, and pleasure.
- More helpful, generous, and compassionate.
- More forgiving.
- Feel less lonely and isolated and are more outgoing.
Emmons also found that it takes about 10 weeks for these changes to begin to manifest. In a study, subjects who wrote in gratitude journals became more optimistic after 10 weeks. While the purpose of being grateful largely lives in improvements in mental, social and physical wellbeing, it’s also proven to help with financial and professional life as a byproduct.
There are lots of apps and specialty journals where you can write about things that you’re grateful for and go through exercises to expand your practice and thought processes. If writing isn’t your thing, here are three simple and scientific ways to make gratitude work for you:
1. Identify things you’re grateful for each night before bed.
End your day on a positive note. Right before bed, genuinely think back through the catalog of your day and pick out highlights that matter to you. It might be as small as a smiley baby on the subway or even the fact that the streetcar came on time. It doesn’t matter how big or small so long as the moment mattered to you.
2. Turn gratitude into action
Research from The Royal Society demonstrates employees who think and take positive actions are three times more likely to flourish. In super scientific terms they found that positive emotions broaden people’s attention and thinking while at the same time undo lingering negative emotional arousals. This means positive thinking helps you overcome people and situations you typically associated with negative emotions due to bad prior experiences. Remaining positive during interactions with said individuals fuels psychological resilience and build consequential personal resources which trigger upward spirals towards greater well-being and seed opportunities to flourish.
3. Share the energy
We get back the energy we put out into the world. This means if you put gratitude out into the world, it creates more gratitude around you. You can do this by talking to people around you about experiences you’re grateful for and the positive things that happen to you. Studies show that talking about things we appreciate instead of negative topics or complaints will open up your mind to more creative and positive thinking.
Overall, it is important to create a way of thinking that allows you to be consciously aware of the thoughts you are processing. While we tend to open up the space for negativity and often focus on what we don't have, try to make that shift towards being grateful for what you do have. From having a bed to sleep in, a family to surround yourself with and even the ability to wake up everyday and be active. These are all privileges that should not be taken for granted and leading up to Thanksgiving I challenge ALL OF YOU to focus on that!