Growing research has shown that gratitude has significant merits when it comes to mental health. According to experts, appreciating the little things in life changes the brain’s function, releasing chemicals that put you in a better mood.
Have you ever helped someone and experienced that warm, fuzzy feeling after they said thanks? It’s the exact emotion that, if you practice every day, has a long-term effect on your psychological health. Learn why cultivating gratitude each waking day is good for you.
1. Makes You Happier
Happiness is directly connected with gratitude. When you feel thankful, you instantly evoke feelings of joy. When you’re joyful, you’re less depressed.
From a psychological perspective, gratitude activates the limbic system, consisting of the hippocampus, amygdala and other parts. This group of brain parts regulates emotions. When activated, they release chemicals like dopamine, associated with pleasure, serotonin which helps regulate your mood and oxytocin, which induces feelings of generosity and trust.
2. Increases Your Resilience
Being grateful can also enhance your ability to withstand or recover from life’s difficulties. Experts surveyed patients and their relatives and palliative care workers on the effects of gratitude. Over 90% of the patients’ families expressed appreciation toward the palliative care professionals. As a result, 89% of care workers were satisfied with their profession, 89% saw expressions of gratitude as a source of support during difficult times and 88% felt their mood improved.
Overall, these benefits elevated their resilience skills on the job and reduced feelings of distress. In turn, this impacted the care patients receive.
3. Reinforces Your Patience
Patience is an essential virtue in almost all aspects of your life. Nurturing it by practicing gratitude will help you face challenges with a calm and clear mind. Patient people display a greater sense of gratitude since they focus on what they’re grateful for instead of what they lack. They learn to wait for the good things to come. Gratitude increases your self-control and reinforces your ability to wait.
4. Reduces Your Stress
Grateful people have better stress-coping skills than their counterparts. A study on university suitemates demonstrated how gratitude could change one’s stress profile. Researchers assigned “expressers” and “receivers” to either share something about their day or something they’re grateful for about their partner. Afterward, researchers asked the students to create a market plan, a sales pitch and a new bicycle design — in just six minutes.
Under this stressful circumstance, grateful students had more dilated vasculature and their hearts were pumping out more blood to allow more oxygen to enter the body — a mark of superior stress-coping skills. Meanwhile, students who shared something about their day showed stronger threat responses suggesting their poor profiles for stress management.
5. Improves Your Relationships
Gratitude can also boost your satisfaction with your current relationships. Try to go through life with a contagious attitude of gratitude. Tell your loved ones that you appreciate them. Whether you write them a note or give them a call, the act of sharing your gratitude can brighten both their day and yours.
Gratitude is the mesh that binds people together. It’s a vital element in fostering relationships built in trust and affection between families and friends.
6. Reduces Your Anxiety
Anxiety is another inevitable emotion gratitude diminishes. In one study, people aged 60 and older were divided into three groups to determine the link between gratitude and death anxiety. One group was instructed to write gratitude notes and positive words. The other was to write about their worries and the last group was assigned a neutral task.
When the groups were exposed to factors triggering death anxiety, the first group who wrote gratitude notes manifested fewer signs of death anxiety than the rest. The results established that it’s easier for grateful people to gain acceptance and overcome their fear of the future.
7. Promotes Optimism
Like other beneficial outcomes, gratitude and optimism are also connected. Both are associated with positive well-being and better quality of health. One study on gratitude and optimism linked both emotions with lower blood pressure and heart rate, improved sleep quality, lower stress, more frequent exercise and elevated feelings of appreciation toward others.
Being grateful opens your heart to value the little things in life, and this is the foundation of optimism.
5 Tips for Cultivating Gratitude
Knowing all of these benefits, how do you cultivate gratitude in your daily life? These five tips will help you spot opportunities to be grateful for.
Writing the thoughts and feelings you would otherwise ignore helps you process — and be grateful for — what you currently have. You can journal after you wake up or before you go to bed. Write three things you’re grateful for, like being alive and having a job. It doesn’t have to be big things. You can be thankful for good weather or an opportunity to talk with a friend.
2. Practicing Mindfulness
A fast-paced lifestyle hinders you from valuing what you have in life. Being mindful starts with pressing the pause button to put your life at a halt. Use a few minutes a day to be aware of the people and your surroundings. Notice the present moment and whisper a few gratifying words to yourself.
3. Writing Thank You Notes
Writing gratitude notes, even if you keep them to yourself, puts on you a receptive frequency. You can write a note addressed to a stranger who gave up their bus seat for you. This practice activates grateful thinking and opens your heart to more good things.
4. Practicing Self-Appreciation
You can appreciate yourself and feel grateful for your health or who you are. For instance, you can look in the mirror each morning and thank yourself for not skipping your skincare routine, even if you’re tired. You can pat yourself on the back for taking care of your body and not missing your daily workout.
5. Being Conscious of the Language
People who embed gratitude use the positive language of givers, blessings, gifts and wealth in how they talk, think and behave. On the contrary, ungrateful people focus on scarcity, deprivation and need in their language.
Make Gratitude Your Way of Life
If you go fast in life, it’s easy to overlook what you ought to be grateful for. What makes life more fulfilling is appreciating the present moment. When you slow down and recognize you have everything you need, you train yourself to be thankful.
Being grateful has life-changing effects on your mental health. Start small by keeping a gratitude journal, incorporating mindfulness, treasuring yourself and using the language of abundance instead of scarcity. As you keep cultivating this positive feeling, it becomes part of your mental makeup, making it easier to see everything you have instead of what you lack.