Practice Gratitude - it's good for you!

If you’re like many of us, gratitude is something you think about primarily on Thanksgiving. Without a doubt, Thanksgiving serves as a good reminder to be grateful, but it comes around only one day a year. Surely there’s some reason to be grateful the other 364 days!

What’s the point of being grateful?

As a child, you were taught to say “thank you” as a a way of being polite and making other people feel good. After all, who doesn’t appreciate receiving recognition for something they’ve done? That’s one reason FirstService Residential recommends that the boards of community associations publicly say “thank you” to residents who volunteer to help out their community.

Demonstrating good manners and making another person feel valued may be enough reason to express gratitude. However, research shows that there are plenty of other reasons, too – and they have more to do with you than with the other person. Here are 10 ways that having an attitude of gratitude all year long can be beneficial to you.

Gratitude brings happiness

1. You’ll be happier.
The most consistently reported benefit of gratitude is its impact on emotional health. At its core, gratitude affirms that goodness exists. When you appreciate the things in your life and no longer take them for granted, you affirm the existence of goodness. This creates longer-lasting positive feelings. In addition, gratitude helps block negative feelings because you can’t experience a negative emotion at the same time that you’re feeling grateful.

2. You’ll have greater self-esteem.
People who see the world through a negative lens tend to see themselves through that same lens. Gratitude has the opposite effect. By focusing on the things you are grateful for, you’ll perceive yourself more postively. This ties back to No. 1: If there is goodness in the world, then your place in it must have value.

3. Your work performance will improve.
Being more grateful will help you feel more engaged in every aspect of your life, including work. It can increase your sense of purpose and motivation, make it easier for you to reach your goals and inspire you to strive for goals you previously considered too challenging.

4. You’ll cope better during hard times.
Gratitude is especially beneficial if you are experiencing a crisis, a loss or any other significant hardship. Seeing that there continues to be goodness even during a difficult time can help you get through it more easily. Although it doesn’t magically eliminate the difficulty, gratitude does help you recognize it as a temporary condition that is only one small part of a bigger picture.

5. Your relationships will benefit.
From turning encounters into friendships, to bringing you and your loved ones closer, gratitude plays a large part in relationships. When you feel grateful for a kind gesture, you are more likely to do something kind in return. This, in turn, strengthens your connection with that person.

Gratitude brings better sleep

6. You’ll sleep more soundly.
Whether you develop a general sense of gratitude in your day-to-day life or you spend time focusing on what you’re thankful for just before going to sleep, being grateful helps you fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. It also improves the quality of your sleep. Even people whose sleep is affected by a sleep disorder or neuromuscular disease benefit from being more grateful.

7. You’ll feel physically healthier.
People who practice gratitude take better care of themselves. For example, they are more likely to exercise, eat healthy and get regular check-ups. Other health benefits, include lower blood pressure, stronger immune system and reduced aches and pains.  

8. You’ll develop more empathy.
Being more grateful makes you better able to step into another person’s shoes. You’re more inclined to lend support to people around you, and others are more likely to consider you a helpful and giving person.

9. You’ll become more resilient.
The memory of a bad experience often leads people to develop a distrustful view of the world. In essence, they hold onto the memory and keep it right by their side in each new situation. If, instead, you can be grateful for how far you’ve come since that experience, what you’ve gained from it and where you are now, you release that attachment. This doesn’t mean that you bury the experience or pretend it had no impact. What detachment does give you is an ability to face new experiences with a more open mind. The memory also won’t trigger as many negative emotions.

10. You’ll develop more self-control.
Impatience is often linked to your emotions; the worse you feel, the more impatient you become. (Just think about how impatient you get in a traffic jam!) Feeling grateful magnifies positive emotions, which in turn increases patience and reduces impulsiveness. However, studies indicate that it’s most effective if you focus on the small, everday things you’re grateful for rather than those that are more life changing.

Use a gratitude journal.

How do you develop an attitude of gratitude?
It may seem like a tall order, but becoming more grateful isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Like most habits, it’s a matter of consistency. Apply these 3 simple techniques to jumpstart your gratitude practice:

  • Start by keeping a gratitude journal.
    Every day, jot down 5 to 10 things you’re grateful for. You may want to do this first thing in the morning to start your day off on a positive note. Or a bedtime ritual may help you drift off to sleep more peacefully. It doesn’t really matter when you write in your journal as long as you do it regularly.
  • Be present.
    The old adage “Stop and smell the roses” is an example of how you can be more present. Focusing on your senses helps you let go of your thoughts about the past and future and become more mindful of what’s right in front of you in the present moment. Appreciate what you hear, see, smell or touch. And don’t forget to write about it in your gratitude journal!
  • Remember your difficulties.
    This may seem counterintuitive, but don’t worry. It’s not. Making a point of remembering past difficulties reminds you of the transient nature of all experiences. It’s also easier to see the good that came out of it and to appreciate where you are today in hindsight.

Becoming more grateful is one of the few things you can do to make your life a lot better without committing a lot of time. Rest assured that, ittle by little, you’ll begin to see (and feel) the difference. Aren’t you grateful it’s that easy?

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