Gratitude is about grounding yourself and focusing on the good. The good can really be anything that makes you happy: from the cup of coffee you had this morning to the people in your life. Practicing gratitude is not lecturing yourself and saying “you should be grateful, other people have it worse.” Instead, it’s about spending time to focus on the good, however large or small that may be. And by regularly taking some time to do that, you will develop habits (and even rewire your brain!) to think and live a little more positively, benefitting both your mental and physical health.
Here are some benefits of gratitude:
The thing we all need: more sleep! People who practice gratitude before bed are proven to sleep better. It totally makes sense! We all know that spiral of negativity that keeps so many of us awake: Did I remember to send that email? I have to do laundry tomorrow. Why did I say that thing 10 years ago? By regularly
practicing gratitude, you’re more likely to be able to focus on positive thoughts at bedtime and avoid that negative self-talk that keeps us awake.
We live in a society of judgment, competition, and unreachable standards that tries to crush our self-esteem, resulting in negative and unhealthy relationships to our bodies and selves. Practicing gratitude is a great way to combat negative self-talk and feeling less than. Rather than compare ourselves to others (whether it be physically, emotionally, career, etc.) gratitude helps us to center ourselves and focus on the positives, improving our overall outlook on like and ourselves!
Improved mental health
It sounds obvious, but it’s true. By routinely practicing gratitude, you rewire your brain to think more positively. Gratitude literally makes you produce “happy hormones” aka dopamine and serotonin. Just like with physical exercise, by regularly practicing gratitude, you can literally strengthen these neural pathways, resulting in better and long-lasting production of positive feelings. We’re not suggesting this is a cure for depression or anxiety, but it truly does make a difference on your mental health by regularly taking time to focus on positives. For a more in-depth look at how gratitude both directly and indirectly impacts depression and anxiety, check out this article from Psychology Today.
It’s good for your physical health, too!
Or at the very least, grateful people are more likely to make healthier choices, like exercising regularly. Studies suggest a wide range of improved health in people who practice gratitude including better sleep, lower inflammation and aches and pains. As we know, our mental and physical health are deeply connected. If you consider all the impact gratitude has on things like sleep and mental health, it makes sense that it would impact your physical health as well! Whether you feel better and are making healthier choices directly due to being grateful, or as an indirect result of things like sleeping better.
Gratitude can even help us through trauma
As simple as it may sound, having the ability to reflect on what we’re grateful for can help us heal in the hardest of times. There have been numerous studies on the positive impact gratitude has on people who have experienced trauma.
What it means to Practice Gratitude
There are a lot of ways to incorporate more gratitude in your life. It could be as small as thinking about one thing you’re grateful for that day.
- Make a list in your head. We suggest doing this either first thing in the morning or when going to sleep.
- Say things you’re grateful for out-loud - try it while looking in the mirror.
- Tell people in your life you’re grateful for them and why.
- Meditate. Intention and gratitude go hand-in-hand.
- Write it down (our favorite). There are lots of ways to do it, the thing we like so much about this is having a record to refer to of things you’ve been grateful for. Some fun ideas include a gratitude jar or a gratitude journal.
Since the idea is to make this a regular practice, try to figure out a method and time of day that works best for you, that way you’re more likely to stick with it. When writing a list, try to aim for ten things no
matter how small. Even then, it can be hard to come up with all ten, and that’s okay. You’re not trying to put more pressure on yourself, but rather practically incorporate this positive (and free!) practice into your wellness routine. In a time where our culture has capitalized and corporatized “self-care” having these routines and practices that actually help us without charging us is that much more important! (And hey, that’s something you can add to your gratitude list).
Remember, these changes won’t happen overnight.
Just writing down a couple of things one morning will feel good at the moment, but won’t have a lasting impact. This is what we like so much about something like a gratitude journal or jar: it’s a tangible accumulation of what you’re grateful for - and the more you add, the larger that collection gets. So on those bad days, you have a physical reminder of all the good.
Taking a few minutes a day to reflect on what you are grateful for can make a positive, long-lasting impact on your health and well-being.
Regularly practicing gratitude is a special way improve both your mental and physical health. Whatever gratitude looks like for you, taking a little time to think about what you’re grateful for every day could make a big difference in your life.