Gratitude. The word is used so often these days that the practice may seem somewhat new age. But the simple practice of taking time to notice and reflect on the things you are thankful for has significant benefits.
In fact, people who regularly practice gratitude have been shown to experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness. They even have stronger immune systems.
Best of all, gratitude doesn’t need to be reserved only for the big flashy and fabulous moments in our lives. Sure, we might feel gratitude after receiving a promotion at work, but we can also be thankful for something as simple as a delicious piece of pie, the sun on our face or a smile from a stranger.
Science shows that developing an attitude of gratitude is one of the simplest ways to improve your happiness.
Increased life satisfaction
Research by psychologist Robert Emmons shows that simply keeping a gratitude journal—regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we’re thankful—can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.
In a study called Counting Blessings vs. Burdens, ill patients were required to keep a gratitude journal. Sixteen percent of subjects reported reduced symptoms and 10% reported a decrease in pain.
Blocking toxic, negative emotions
Emotions that can destroy our happiness such as envy, resentment and regret can be reduced by practicing gratitude. A 2008 study by psychologist Alex Wood in the Journal of Research in Personality, showed that gratitude can reduce the frequency and duration of episodes of depression.
Simple and effective ways to practice gratitude
The most commonly cited way to increase gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal. This can include anything and everything. Start with the myriad of things that so many us take for granted each day such as food, running water and a roof over our heads. Expand your focus to those seemingly insignificant moments and events that serve to educate and motivate or just put a smile on our face. And of course, celebrate the big moments that bring joy and make you grateful.
Try looking for new things each day; gratitude for your family and work colleagues. Gratitude for advice given, thoughts shared, and emotions felt.
How to make gratitude a social and shared practice
• Write a gratitude letter to someone who had an impact on you whom you may have never properly thanked.
• Keep a gratitude jar on your own, or with your partner, among all your family or at your workplace. How? Take a moment to reflect on what you are grateful for, note it and place it in the gratitude jar. Share contents as a group or maybe pick a day a week when you read them, or just dip in individually when you need to reboot your feelings of gratitude.
• Cultivate a habit of sharing grateful moments around the dinner table
We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Make it a focus in your life over the next few weeks. You will be pleasantly surprised at the benefits that arise from simply taking a few moments to focus on all that you have.
By Gabrielle Booty