We often neglect one of the most powerful mental health treatments we have available to us—gratitude! We probably all have heard that gratitude is good for us, but research keeps discovering more ways that gratitude powerfully improves our lives.
1. Gratitude improves mental health, increasing happiness and optimism, and reducing symptoms of depression.
2. Gratitude helps us sleep better. Studies show writing about things you are grateful for before going to bed improves sleep.
3. Gratitude improves self-esteem and reduces social comparisons.
4. Gratitude increases mental resilience and the ability to recover from difficult situations and trauma.
5. Gratitude increases motivation and accomplishments. People that regularly practice gratitude are more likely to accomplish academic, interpersonal, and health-based goals.
6. Gratitude improves physical health. Studies have shown that people who begin practicing gratitude experience fewer physical symptoms. Additionally, they are more likely to exercise.
7. Gratitude increases empathy toward others and the likelihood that you will offer a helping hand to those around you in need.
8. Gratitude increases feelings of connectedness with other people and opens doors to new relationships.
9. Gratitude increases alertness, energy, determination, and attentiveness.
10. Gratitude decreases aggression and makes it less likely that a person will hold onto wrongs committed against them.
With all these amazing benefits, how can we prioritize gratitude more in our lives? Robert Emmons, Ph.D. has done extensive research on the subject of gratitude and has found that we can begin seeing these benefits of gratitude in our lives with the simple act of keeping a gratitude journal to spend a few minutes a day reflecting on being thankful.
Gratitude circles can also be helpful. You can create a gratitude circle by asking a few close friends or family members to share a specific number of things each day that they are grateful for through a group text or social media app. This allows you to share each other’s lives together, rejoice in the each other’s blessings, and keep each other accountable in the practice of gratitude.
It is also good to acknowledge that sometimes gratitude is not easy. When we are going through really hard times, gratitude can seem completely out of reach. So, during these times, it is important to give yourself space to process the negative emotions you are experiencing, but even then, don’t give up on gratitude. As you are able, start taking whatever small steps you can to help access the power of gratitude in your life.
In those times, it helps me to remember that the author who penned the words “give thanks in all circumstances…” in 1 Thessalonians knew what it was like to be wrongful incarcerated, shipwrecked, stoned and whipped. So, although those words can feel flippant, I know when he wrote those words, they were not written lightly.
Let’s start building a habit of gratitude today!