November 2021 How Gratitude Can Change Your Life
Are you looking for more happiness in your life? Do you need better sleep and a boosted immunity? Do you strive for more productivity and creativity in your life? Do you crave deeper, more meaningful relationships? What if I told you that there was one magical solution to all these aspirations?
Creating an attitude of gratitude can bring these shifts into your life. There have been over 40 research studies on gratitude and what it does for the mind, body and soul. One study researched Americans and Germans and their feelings about gratitude. The study found that 20% of American adults rated gratitude as a useful emotion, compared to 50% of Germans. That study showed that 10% of Americans stated they “regularly or often” experienced gratitude, as compared to 30% of Germans.
The authors of the study, Shula Sommers and Corinne Kosmitzki sampled 105 Americans and 40 German adults and found that gratitude could be seen as a moral affect, stating “We are…proposing … that gratitude typically results from and stimulates moral behavior, that is, behavior that is motivated out of concern for another person… We liken gratitude to other moral affects such as empathy, sympathy, guilt, and shame.”
Other studies showed that people were more likely to feel gratitude toward the following:
∙ Large acts versus smaller acts
∙ Acts performed by strangers versus friends or family
∙ Acts performed by those with higher status
∙ People who are generally nicer
Feeling grateful can also make us more approachable and likable. It can create a more trusting energy, can build social bonding within friendships, and can even improve marriages. Gratitude can deepen your existing relationships and make it easier to create new ones.
Studies have shown that gratitude can even make you healthier. A 2003 study showed that participants who kept a gratitude journal reported the following:
25% increased sleep quality
19% more time exercising
16% fewer physical ailments
10% less physical pain
8% more sleep
30% lowered depressive symptoms
A study in 2007 (Gratitude: Effects on Perspectives and Blood Pressure) showed that patients with hypertension saw a significant decrease in their systolic blood pressure by counting their blessings once a week. Another study in 2009 (Gratitude Influences Sleep through Mechanism of Pre-Sleep Cognitions) correlated gratitude with improved sleep quality including less time required to fall asleep and an increase in sleep duration.
Taking the time to recognize the goodness in your life and find gratitude for even the small things can benefit you in countless ways. Whether it's a daily entry in a gratitude journal, a nature walks during which you count your blessings, or taking the time to appreciate the people in your life, practicing gratitude will always bring more joy into your life. How will you practice gratitude today?
Use Gratitude to Boost Your Career
Did you know that gratitude can help shift your outlook on life? Gratitude is strongly correlated with optimism and being optimistic makes us happier, more approachable, more likeable and more trusted.
Gratitude will strengthen your positive emotions, helping you look at life through a “glass half full” lens. It can reduce the feelings of envy and increase your feelings of happiness, appreciation and love. It can allow you to live with less anxiety and help build your resilience to stressful moments.
Even your career can get a boost from practicing gratitude, making it easier to network, boosting your decision-making abilities, increasing your productivity and creativity, all helping you become a more effective worker. Practicing gratitude can help you achieve your career goals and can also help create a more friendly and productive work environment.
Creating more gratitude in your life will decrease the need for materialism as well. Materialism can often generate negative emotions and makes people more self-centered. Gratitude will allow you to focus more on the more important parts of your life like your family, friends, pets, and your health rather than the new car, bigger home or making more money.
Practicing gratitude has been shown to increase spirituality as well. The more grateful you are, the more spiritual transcendence you will have. All major religions advocate gratitude as a virtue and thus your behavior shifts, your morals shift, and you will feel closer to your divine when you create more gratitude in your life. Whether you believe in an organized religion, the Universe, Divine Spirit, Mother Nature or another deity, you can benefit from gratitude.
The practice of gratitude can lead you to feel less self-centered and egocentric. You begin to appreciate the people in your life, the nature around you, and even inanimate objects like the roof over your head and the food that sustains you every day. When you increase your gratitude practices you will have an urge to help others, look for the good, and find the positivity in what you used to see as negativity. A gratitude practice will help you focus on others and that can boost your own self-esteem as well a that of others.
Further, research has shown that people who cultivate the “attitude of gratitude” tend to have higher self-esteem and self-worth. When you intentionally take notice of and appreciate the little things in your life you will develop a stronger sense of your own value. This act alone can increase your potential in your position and boost your confidence in your career. Gratitude Can Increase Your Health
There are over 137 research studies looking at the correlation of gratitude and health. Positive emotion has been shown to improve any type of health issue. Living in a state of gratitude can strengthen your physiological functioning. Many cancer treatment centers have been using gratitude in their treatments to help patients better cope with their diagnosis. Research has shown that by adding in a bit of gratitude into their daily routine, the patients have faster recovery from medical procedures, improved immune functions and have had less pain. Some recent studies show that those who live in gratitude have lower blood pressure, see the doctor less and are less likely to develop a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression.
More research also showed a link to insomnia and gratitude. Those who practiced a daily gratitude ritual had better sleep scores. They were able to fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer. Gratitude helps clear the mind of racing thoughts, worries, anxiety and stress about all the daily things that happen in your life. Shifting your mind to things that you are grateful for will induce a relaxation response to your parasympathetic nervous system and make it easier for you to slow down and go to sleep. It can also decrease the likelihood of waking up during the night with racing thoughts.
Gratitude has been shown to increase energy levels, vitality and motivation. When you are grateful you are more likely to move your body and stay more positive. Living in gratitude makes you realize how important your health is and not to take it for granted. In another study, 96 Americans were split into two exercise groups, where one group was told to keep a weekly gratitude journal and the second group just exercised normally. The 11-week study showed that those who kept the gratitude journal and exercised increase their weekly exercise by an extra 40 minutes versus the control group.
Gratitude can help with your mental health as well. Those who practice gratitude regularly have more coping skills, more resilience and are more likely to reach out to friends, family or a professional for help. Gratitude has been used to help patients with PTSD as a coping mechanism when they become triggered by an event. Gratitude can help boost the happy hormones in your brain and make you feel good. Robert Emmons is a gratitude researcher and believes that “gratitude is just happiness that we recognize after-the-fact to have been caused by the kindness of others!”
Gratitude can also make our memories happier. Experiencing gratitude in the present moment will make it easier to remember positive memories. In fact, one study put people into a grateful mood and helped them find closure to some sad or upsetting memories. Once in a grateful setting, they were able to recall positive aspects of the negative memory and were able to turn the negative aspects into more positive ones. Using gratitude to help trauma victims and PTSD sufferers has been shown to improve their memories and allow them to move forward with their therapy.
Living in gratitude can also help us relax. As a positive emotion, gratitude can be one of the strongest natural relaxants there is. Taking time to write down three things you are grateful for each day can bring a calming effect to your central nervous system, like a muscle relaxer, but without the negative side effects. Instead, you feel refreshed, energized, motivated, happy and filled with joy.
How do you use gratitude in your workday and overall health?