As a child, you were likely told to be thankful for what you have. Gratitude is a concept that was instilled in most of us at an early age. We’re taught to say “thank you” for what we’re given. When we’re grateful, we’re acknowledging the positive aspects of life, ourselves, other people, the world around us, and so on.
When we go through hard times, it can be painful to hear, “just be positive,” but that isn’t what gratitude is. Being a positive and thankful person doesn’t mean that you’ll be joyous without fail all of the time. We all experience a wide range of feelings as human beings, and all of those feelings are valid emotions that are important to acknowledge and express. In life, we’re not always dealt with cards that are fair or just. Being grateful doesn’t mean ignoring poor treatment or putting up with bad situations; it’s about being thankful for and observant of the good things that do exist in our lives.
Whether you’re grateful for the way that the fresh air feels outside when you take a walk, the people in your life, a personality trait or skill of your own, or something else, we all have an abundance of things to point to and show gratitude for. Affirming the positive elements in your world helps you to see even more positivity in your life, and people around you will notice. Believe it or not, gratitude also comes with an array of health benefits.
Affirming the positive elements in your world helps you to see even more positivity in your life, and people around you will notice
What is gratitude?
Before getting into the benefits of gratitude, let’s talk more about what it actually is. Gratitude refers to a state of appreciation and thankfulness. To practice gratitude means to be intentional and conscious as we focus that appreciation. If we take the time to acknowledge and express gratitude on a daily basis, it can improve our overall wellbeing and create associations in our brain so that we naturally think in a more positive manner.
Who should practice gratitude?
The short answer is that everyone should practice gratitude. With no exceptions, everyone can benefit from being more consciously appreciative of the world around them and the good things in their lives. If you’ve studied psychology, it’s likely that you’ve heard of serotonin and dopamine and the effect that they have on how we feel emotionally. Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters that cause us to feel good and experience happiness when they’re released. Expressing gratitude releases these neurotransmitters.
Consequently, acts of gratitude reduce levels of anxiety, depression, stress, and even physical pain. It goes without saying that life can be stressful for all of us, so practicing gratitude is something that is helpful for anyone and everyone.
Why is it important?
Gratitude enhances your life and helps you live it to the fullest. When we see the good in things, it has a positive impact on our overall wellbeing. It’s not just good for your emotional wellbeing and mental health; it’s also linked to a higher quality of physical health.
Physical health benefits of gratitude include healthier sleeping patterns, a potential decrease in body aches, improved cardiovascular health, and even a stronger ability to fight disease. When it comes to our mental state, gratitude helps us by improving our mood, bettering our relationships, increasing our level of self-esteem, and making us feel happier and more positive overall. This isn’t just speculation or perception; the health benefits of gratitude have been proven by a number of studies.
How to Practice Gratitude in Your Daily Life
Something wonderful about gratitude is that you can take it with you anywhere. The easiest way to practice gratitude is to simply think about what you’re thankful for. Here are some other ways to incorporate gratitude into your life:
- Use a gratitude journal
- Take some time every evening to list three or more things that you’re grateful for
- Tell a friend, family member, or partner that you’re thankful for them
- Write thank-you notes or letters
- Complete a guided meditation surrounding gratitude
- Keep a gratitude practice or ritual
- Acts of kindness
What if I don’t feel grateful?
If you struggle with depression or don’t have the best life circumstances, it can be difficult to think of what you’re grateful for. When you have to fight to get through the day, gratitude is probably the last thing on your mind. Maybe, you’re going through a depressive episode where you’ve isolated yourself from all of the people in your life and don’t look forward to anything anymore. It could also be that daily life stressors are negatively impacting you. Maybe, your family or relationship struggles are getting to you and wearing you so thin that you find it tough to feel content. Perhaps, you’re stressed out about work or finances and worry so much about putting food on the table that it’s hard to think about anything else.
These are all very real issues that people face. While these problems can’t be solved or taken away by gratitude, you can still utilize gratitude in your life and make it one thing that is uplifting among the shadows. Expressing gratitude doesn’t need to be a grandiose act; it can be as simple as saying, “I’m thankful for this meal,” “I’m thankful that it’s sunny outside today,” or “I’m thankful for a happy memory that I have; that time really enhanced my life.” Start by thinking of the little things that you’re thankful for. Gratitude doesn’t mean ignoring what isn’t working in your life; it’s about thinking about what you do have, and that works no matter how much or how little you have. It’s important to note that gratitude alone isn’t a treatment for depression or other mental health conditions. If you think that you might be struggling with depression, it’s important to reach out to a mental health provider and get the help that you need.
Gratitude doesn’t mean ignoring what isn’t working in your life; it’s about thinking about what you do have, and that works no matter how much or how little you have.
There’s no such thing as being too thankful. If you want to reap the benefits of gratitude, make a conscious effort to practice it in your daily life.