Wellness gurus and philosophical leaders have always promoted gratefulness as an important practice. But now the rest of the world is realising the benefits and power of a grateful attitude.
We’re seeing how constantly pining for what we don’t have is making us unhappy. Being grateful has the opposite effect – improving life satisfaction, relationships, mental and physical health.
Researchers have also found that optimism (which stems from a grateful attitude) doesn’t just feel good, it improves your heart health too.
Let’s take a look at how becoming more grateful can lead to a healthier body, improve mental health and promote stronger social connections.
1. Strengthen social bonds
People who show gratefulness are often able to make friends more easily. Even though they might not say it, you can feel the difference between someone who appreciates spending time with you and someone who’s doing it because they feel like they should.
The warmth and thankfulness that radiates from a grateful person make them magnetic. Everyone they interact with is drawn closer.
Looking for ways to be grateful often makes us more present. We live in the moment instead of feeling troubled by our past or worried about our future.
Living in the moment makes it easier to tune into how others are feeling, we notice their reactions to experiences.
When we’re caught up in our own angst, we come across as self-absorbed or simply unresponsive. Both of which make our relationships strained and can push the ones we love away from us.
Gratitude gives us vitality.
With a grateful heart comes an energetic mind and body. Having more energy impacts those around us too. We jump into action instead of needing pushing or convincing.
We also take better care of ourselves. When others see you living with a high level of self-care, they believe you’re able to care for them too.
No matter who you want to build a stronger relationship with – your boss, a friend or your life partner – becoming more grateful is the key.
2. Boost optimism, generosity and purpose
Appreciating all of the small and big aspects of our surroundings, our body and our relationships help to shift the focus away from what we don’t have to everything we’ve got.
Seeing the abundance around us makes us realise that our life is far from lacking.
We often get caught up longing for places, people and things we don’t have. So acknowledging everything we do have is a fast way to flip your perspective.
Changing your perspective is a powerful tool.
Our brains respond to threats, whether they are real or imagined. Thinking about a large spider crawling across your neck sets off physical responses even though the danger is not real.
Because our imagination affects our body, whatever story you create in your thoughts seems true to your mind.
Spending your days thinking about how everyone else’s life is better than yours leads to feelings of boredom and misery. Your mind is constantly receiving messages that your life is dull and not good enough.
But feeling a strong appreciation for your life tells your mind you have everything you need. You being to feel light and content.
We all have the power to change our perspective, we do often do it unconsciously with time.
Have you noticed that after a negative event you feel the worst but as time passes, those feelings dissipate? Over time your perspective is slowly shifting.
A regular gratitude practice flexes your perspective shifting muscle. You become more adept at changing how you see a situation.
Being grateful also gives us a greater sense of purpose in life. We find meaning in our work and at home.
Knowing our actions have a deeper impact helps us to avoid feeling stuck or like we’re just going through the motions.
We start to see the ripple effect of each task in our day – how washing the dishes makes dinner preparation easier and faster, leading to more energy for healthy meal choices.
3. Ways to practice gratitude
Start a gratitude journal – spend three minutes every day writing down at least two things that you are grateful for.
It could be the hot water for your shower or food in your fridge, a cuddle from your dog or a friend calling to chat.
Practice mindfulness – being mindful is when you’re aware of your environment, body, thoughts and feelings.
It’s about tuning in to what’s happening right now. You can practice mindfulness any time during your day.
Look around you and notice the colours and shapes. Pay attention to the sounds, sights, smells, tastes and touch. Listen to your breathing.
Step back from your thoughts and notice them for what they are, flashes of information from your brain. You can choose whether or not to give them any weight or significance. Mindfulness is known to reduce stress, enhance focus, alleviate anxiety and improve memory.
Show your thankfulness – find ways to express your thanks to a family member, friend or colleague beyond saying thank you.
A surprise note, a bunch of flowers, baking their favourite treat. Putting in a little more effort to show your appreciation has a big impact on how they feel.
It benefits you too. With a grateful attitude giving feels just as good, if not better than receiving.