Starting a Gratitude PracticeWellness Tips
Guest Blogger: Rachael Todd
Certified Health Coach and Yoga Instructor, Certified in Positive Psychology
I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal for about three years now and I have seen a significant improvement in my attitude towards life. It takes a lot to throw me off or upset me and even in the most desolate of times, I can find something in my life that is worth living for.
Keeping a gratitude journal can be done in many different ways but my journal is filled with five bulleted items each night. I just take a moment to reflect on my day, to cultivate feelings of gratitude for every thing in my life, and then I write down five things.
It takes about two minutes but the benefits are exponential.
Here’s some research to back me up 🙂
In fact, gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that we all have access to every day. Research reveals gratitude can have these seven benefits:
- Gratitude opens the door to more quality relationships. Saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2104 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or you send a quick thank-you note to that co-worker who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.
- Gratitude improves your physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they 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 better care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to maintain healthy habits, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.
- Gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., 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.
- Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kind, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.
- 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 sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.
- Gratitude improves self-esteem. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychologyfound that gratitude increased athlete’s self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs – which is a major factor in reduced self-esteem- grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
- Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times of your life – fosters resilience.
We all have the ability and the time to dedicate to a gratitude practice. Perhaps just start with writing down three things each night in order to form a new habit. Take deep breaths and focus on every thing you have in your life. When we appreciate the good, the good appreciates.