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In a world that feels more tumultuous with every day, we all need something to help us remember what is good in life. The art of practicing gratitude can be just what we need to find the good when times are tough. But for many of us, we may be wondering what is the point? Why is practicing gratitude even a good idea? Does is actually help me, or am I just pretending to find the good, while everything still sucks?
I don’t want to simply share personal anecdotes (though I definitely could), but I want to focus on what the research says about gratitude? Over the last few years, thanks to the rise of positive psychology, gratitude has been heavily researched. You may be surprised at what some of the research is showing. I hope that these research-based reasons to practice gratitude will encourage you to start this wonderful healthy habit of gratitude.
Practicing gratitude has been shown to improve overall health
Over the past several years the benefits of practicing gratitude have been heavily researched. The results of some of these studies has been very positive.
Robert Emmons, a prominent researcher in the benefits of gratitude, has done numerous studies linking gratitude to overall well-being. His research has shown a definitive link between practicing gratitude and an increase in overall happiness. That increase in happiness, naturally, resulted in a decrease of depression symptoms.
Practicing gratitude has also been shown to improve sleep quality. According to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, spending just 15 minutes writing down things you’re grateful for in a journal was shown to help people sleep better and for longer.
A 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences showed that people who practiced gratitude regularly were also more likely to live a healthier lifestyle. People who regularly practice gratitude have been shown to exercise more regularly and attend regular check-ups, which in turn results in a healthier lifestyle.
Not a ton of research has been done on the effects of gratitude on a persons physical health. One study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research showed some participants stated improvements in sleep quality, blood pressure, glycemic control, asthma control, inflammation markers, and other physical symptoms. The study also states that there’s some risk of bias concerns in those results, but it is hard to ignore that there is a strong chance of physical benefits to practicing gratitude as well.
Practicing Gratitude Can Promote Optimism
The older we get, the harder it can be to feel optimistic. Recent research is showing that an increase in optimism can help decrease some of the effects of aging. How can we increase optimism? By incorporating gratitude into our daily life!
A 2018 study shows that older adults who practiced gratitude regularly are more likely to have a positive outlook on life, therefore promoting more optimism. Incorporating gratitude into your daily life can help even a pessimist find what is good in life.
Gratitude Can Help Build And Improve Relationships With Others
Naturally, being grateful tends to build more friendships than pessimism does. But the benefits of gratitude when it comes to relationships goes beyond having good manners. A study done in 2014 in Emotion showed that thanking a new acquaintance makes others more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. Simply put, acknowledging another person’s value can lead to new opportunities in building relationships.
In our current day and age, it seems that building genuine relationships is difficult. Perhaps the benefits of regular gratitude can help us in building positive, healthy relationships. Whether that is simply thanking the cashier at the grocery store, or writing a thank you letter to someone special. Everyone can benefit from the gratitude of another.
Gratitude Journals are an excellent form of self care
Some self care tasks are fun, but not always restorative. For example, as much as I love endlessly scrolling on Instagram, I usually don’t feel refreshed afterword. Actually, I usually feel more tired or overwhelmed depending on what I saw. What I find is that some activities we deem as “self care,” can sometimes just be avoidant behaviors. When we spend our days scrolling social media, or watching endless tv, playing endless video games, emotionally eating, those activities are sometimes an attempt to avoid the stresses of life.
The beauty of gratitude journaling is that you’re not avoiding reality, you’re taking a hard look at it and finding what is good about it. Gratitude journaling gives us the opportunity to really reflect on our life, which in turn leads us to feel more restored. Restoration is a key component to good self care. If you don’t feel restored afterword, then what’s even the point?
The restorative benefits of gratitude have been marked in a plethora of studies. It is difficult to ignore that gratitude journaling is a top notch way to incorporate self care into your life.
Practicing Gratitude gives you an opportunity to understand yourself better
When we make gratitude a regular part of our life, we get a unique opportunity for being introspective. We give ourselves the time to look inward at what is good in our life. Sometimes, simply meditating on the good can open our eyes to more good that we didn’t notice before.
For example, recently I was having a rough time with my body image. Normally I’d look at the mirror and fight the urge to list all of my imperfections, but I tried something new. Instead, I thought about what was praise-worthy of my body. I started remembering that the reason my stomach is not flat is because not too long ago, it carried a baby. I remembered how much of a blessing my body is, because it was given a gift greater I could ever imagine in my son. Just giving myself that moment of gratitude opened up an opportunity to give myself some much needed compassion.
When you open up your life to gratitude, you may learn some new things about yourself. You may even begin to like yourself a little more. If not, then it could give you some opportunities for growth. Regardless, we all could use some introspective time.
Ready to Start Practicing Gratitude?
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