When going through tough times, our automatic reaction is to complain and dwell on negative events, which can result in even more anxiety and unhappiness. The word gratitude comes from Latin gratus, which means ”pleasing” or “thankful” depending on the context. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for the people, experiences, and things we have. While most people are aware that giving thanks is a positive habit to build, many ignore the many scientifically proven benefits of gratitude.
How gratitude can make you happier and healthier
Gratitude has positive effects on both your mind and your body. There have been lots of research around the emotional, physical and social impact of a regular gratitude practice. I found dozens of research papers showing that we would all benefit from a bit more gratitude in our lives, but here are some of the most interesting findings.
- Gratitude makes you happier. Research has shown that journaling for five minutes a day about what you are grateful for makes you feel more positive about your life and can enhance your long-term happiness by more than 10%. Among the many emotional benefits, studies also found that a regular gratitude practice can help increase your self-esteem.
- Gratitude improves your relationships. Gratitude also has many social benefits. According to research, gratitude not only helps you get the social support you need to get through difficult times, but it lessens the need for social support in the first place. Scientists also found that gratitude has a positive impact on friendships and romantic relationships.
- Gratitude increases your work performance. Gratitude has been shown to make you a better manager by enhancing your motivating and praise-giving abilities as a mentor to the employees you manage. Studies also found that it can improve work-related mental health and reduce stress at work by helping protect you from the negative side effects of their a demanding job.
- Gratitude boosts your physical health. Last but not least, gratitude has a positive impact on your body. Research has found that it can significantly improve the quality of your sleep. Building a gratitude habit can even lower your blood pressure, according to numerous studies. Grateful people seem to be healthy people.
How to incorporate gratitude into your life
Building a gratitude habit doesn’t have to be complicated. Of course, you can have a simple gratitude journal, but here are three additional ways to create your own personal gratitude practice.
- The gratitude jar. Get a jar and some post-its or pieces of paper. Every time something good happens or someone does something nice for you, write it down and put it in the jar. Whenever you feel down, stressed, or anxious, pick a couple and read them to remind yourself of the good things in your life.
- The grateful counting sheep. I recently saw this one somewhere on Twitter and thought it was brilliant. I tried it yesterday and it worked wonders. Whenever you’re trying to go to bed but struggle to fall asleep, do the A-Z of gratitude. For each letter, find something or someone you’re grateful for. I think I fell asleep around the letter N.
- The postcards stash. This was a gratitude practice we did at Backed VC during our mental health gym session. Buy a stash of postcards and some stamps. When you have a bit of down time, sit down and write down a couple of thank you notes to people you appreciate. Pop them in the post on your way to work.
Give it a try and add gratitude to your mental gym—you’ll be grateful that you made the change!