November 24, 2015

Practicing or at least expressing gratitude tends to happen close to holidays or big life events, like birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas – you get my drift. And it always feels nice when we express our love at these times, so why would we only do it a couple times a year? You don’t have to dive-in head first to a gratitude practice; you could always start small, maybe noticing one thing each day that you are grateful for. This could then lead you to deeper practices, like writing a daily gratitude journal or incorporating thank-filled mantras into your morning meditation. To keep you inspired, here is a list of eight ways that expressing gratitude on a daily basis can improve your overall health.


1. Gratitude Boosts Wellbeing

Among many other studies with similar results, a2011 study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that grateful adults have higher well-being than their ungrateful counterparts. This was true regardless of age, gender, marital status, or personality type.A study published in the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine (JACM) also found that gratitude is linked to decreased symptoms of depression and increased feelings of happiness.


2. Gratitude Decreases Stress

It is well known that stress hormones wreak havoc on our bodies and minds, so gratitude exercises may be an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. The JACM study linked above also found that gratitude is correlated with reduced feelings of stress, which plays a huge roll in overall wellbeing. In addition,research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies in 2015 found that people who consciously cultivated gratitude were less affected by daily stress than those who didn’t have such a practice.


3. Gratitude Improves Sleep Quality

Studies published in theJournal of Health Psychology (2015) andApplied Psychology: Health and Well-Being (2011) both linked gratitude-boosting practices, like writing down three things you’re grateful for every day, to better sleep. It makes sense, because when we realize all we have to be grateful for, we worry less about the silly things that keep us up at night.


4. Gratitude Re-ignites Sense of Purpose

Feeling burnt out at work? Fora 2011 study published in Educational Psychology researchers had school teachers regularly practice counting their blessings for several weeks in a row. The findings: participants benefited from increased levels of satisfaction in life and sense of personal accomplishment as well as decreased levels of emotional exhaustion and sense of detachment.


5. Gratitude Strengthens Relationships

Gratitude is an integral feature of healthy relationships.Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin published a study in 2011 that found gratitude was part of a self-reinforcing upward spiral among couples. Partners feel grateful when their counterpart is responsive and puts effort into maintaining the relationship, and in turn, this sense of gratitude motivates them to reciprocate. Perhaps this effect underlies the finding ofa 2008 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality that gratitude leads to higher levels of perceived social support.


6. Gratitude Motivates Social Responsibility

In 2007,a study published in the Journal of Business Ethics found that more grateful corporate employees had a greater sense of responsibility about employee and societal issues. A2010 study in Motivation and Emotion that focused on youth corroborated the finding that grateful people have a greater sense of social responsibility; the authors explain that feeling grateful may motivate young adults to give back to their neighborhood, community, and world  In turn, increased social integration enhanced these young adults’ feelings of gratitude. Much like the phenomenon described in close relationships above, this is another self-reinforcing upward spiral toward emotional and social well-being.


7. Gratitude Helps Us Overcome Ego

In yoga, the ego is a constant barrier.A 2014 study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that gratitude and humility go hand-in-hand. Researchers found that gratitude-enhancing exercises left participants less focused on themselves and more aware of the value of others.


8. Gratitude Facilitates Coping

In the challenging phases of life, gratitude may help us cope.The Journal of Happiness Studies published a study in 2013 that found that breast cancer patients who can scrape together feelings of gratitude tend to feel more positive emotions and less distress, and they tend to redirect the energy of trauma toward personal growth.

On a related note, when the time comes to leave this life, gratitude may help us come to terms with the transition. Researchers who publisheda study in the European Journal of Ageing in 2011 explained that when people reexamined their life events through the lens of gratitude they developed the sense that their life had been well-lived and seemed to become less fearful of death.

Start a personal challenge to practice gratitude everyday. Keep a gratitude journal and notice the impact on your daily life. Write in the comments below about your own experiences of practicing gratitude. We love to hear from you!

 


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