The importance of gratitude

Our way of life has changed dramatically since the pandemic began. You or someone you know may be dealing with illness or grief. Money worries may be on your mind. But despite all that, it is possible to feel thankful. And, studies have shown that adding gratitude to your life can have significant health benefits.

Why gratitude is good for you

Research shows that:

  • Thoughts of gratitude produce feelings of pleasure and help regulate stress.
  • Gratitude helps you be more resilient, so you’re better able to cope with stressful situations and traumatic events.
  • The more grateful you are, the more likely you are to exhibit patience and self-control.
  • Couples who are good at feeling thankful tend to have more committed, long-lasting relationships.
  • People who appreciate the positive in the world are more likely to report good physical health, engage in healthy activities, and seek help for their health concerns.
  • Efforts to increase your sense of gratitude can improve your sleep, including falling asleep faster, staying asleep longer, and getting better quality sleep.

Add more gratitude to your life

Just as every half-empty glass is also half-full, there are usually ways to see something good even on bad days. Try these strategies to boost your sense of gratitude.

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. Write down a few things you are grateful for each day. These can be simple things like a good cup of coffee, an unexpected call from a friend, a beautiful sunset, or even a driver who paused so you could turn onto a busy street.
  2. Set realistic expectations. If, figuratively speaking, you carry around a 10-gallon bucket expecting to fill it up with reasons to be thankful, you can easily get frustrated if it stays relatively empty. However, if you carry around a small cup, you’ll find it fills up very quickly, offering greater satisfaction and contentment.
  3. Make it a family affair. Spend a few minutes at the dinner table asking each person to share what they are grateful for. Keep in mind: It’s OK to share disappointments or concerns, too. In fact, talking about these feelings can help you problem-solve and feel better about the situation.
  4. Start a happiness jar. Each night, write down the happiest moment of your day on a small piece of paper and put it in a jar. Not only do you get to see the jar filling up with good things, you can also reach in when you need to be reminded of these happy moments.
  5. Consider the bigger picture. It may be true that your situation could be better, but it’s likely things could also be worse. Be grateful for the roof over your head, the food in your refrigerator, the lack of war or natural disaster, your general good health, family, friends, etc.
  6. Say “thank you.” One of the easiest ways to bring more gratitude to your life is to simply say “thank you” throughout your day. Make it a habit to send thank you notes, flowers, or gifts to express appreciation for bigger acts of kindness, too. In addition to boosting your sense of gratitude, you’ll enjoy knowing you made someone else smile.
Sources:

“Another reason to be thankful? It’s good for you,” David G. Allan, CNN (www.cnn.com), November 26, 2020