How wonderful that a practice as simple as expressing our gratitude can have such an impact on our mental and emotional wellbeing.
“People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems”
There are moments in life where a thank you is expected, like when you receive a gift or someone performs a kind action for you. But you can be grateful for anything in your life. Like the smell of your morning coffee, birdsong, or your train arriving on time. You can be grateful of experiences you’ve had or yet to have. Or for your friends, family, pets and colleagues.
So what are the benefits of Gratitude?
A practice of gratitude has been scientifically shown to reduce heart rate and promote a calm and relaxed state of being. People who are able to focus their attention on energy on things that they are grateful of in the moment (even during difficult situations) are better equipped to manage the physical and mental symptoms of stress.
Gratitude stimulates the production of dopamine (a pleasure and reward motivated hormone) and serotonin (mood regulating hormone), meaning that you feel less stress and more positive emotions. Actively thinking on things that you are grateful for has a positive impact on how you act and feel.
As you know, I’m a big advocate for anything that boosts a healthy sleep. Research has shown that people who struggle with falling asleep benefit from counting their blessings before going to bed. This act serves to reduce worry and arousal, leading to a better quality of sleep all round.
People who regularly express their gratitude typically struggle less with depressive and anxious symptoms. Through the practice we are reminded that even at our lowest moments, all is not bad and there are some positives in our life. This sense of hope is vital for guarding our mental health and wellbeing.
Humans have been evolutionarily designed to seek the negatives in life, dwelling more on perceived failings than our achievements or times of celebration. A regular practice of gratitude can challenge this negativity bias by encouraging the brain to focus on the positives instead. In finding things to be grateful of we can change our outlook to be glass half full.
Although it is important we acknowledge our own qualities and successes, the practice of gratitude is deeply rooted in taking the focus off ourselves and onto the people and world around us. It inspires a virtuous cycle of giving and receiving, without agenda, without expectations.
It is easy to dwell on someone’s perceived flaws or irritating behaviour affecting your relationship. By consciously choosing to focus on the positive aspects of a person and the relationship you will find yourself growing more patient, compassionate and understanding. As a result, confrontation and aggression will diminish.
Enhances Self Care
People who express gratitude are more likely to take care of themselves, including mind, body and soul. Research shows that mentally strong people tend to pity themselves less and value others more. The findings suggest that people who give thanks for their bodies are more willing to ask for help, whether that be a medical doctor, counsellor or fitness instructor.
And the best thing about this practice is that the more often you express gratitude, the stronger the rewards. Research published in the journal Psychotherapy Research in 2016 suggests a practice of Gratitude has long lasting effects on the brain, keeping you mentally, physically and emotionally healthy.