Why Being Grateful is Great for You
Gratitude is simply being grateful, or thankful. Usually we are grateful for things that happen, things we have, relationships and the world around us. But in the business of life and in a society where often we focus on what we WANT rather than what we HAVE it’s easy to take a lot of things for granted and forget to be grateful. How often are we grateful for the fact that we have homes, regular food, a comfortable bed, a sense of being safe? Yes, they are the basics but a lot of people all over the world don’t have them.
Mindfulness has been found to reduce stress and one of the key factors of mindfulness is that it is all about the present, being aware of the present moment and not always looking ahead, or indeed to the past. Gratitude in many ways is very similar in the way it helps us to focus on the present. In addition however recent research suggests that the process of being grateful is actually beneficial to us in a whole host of other ways.
Physical Well Being
According to studies by Robert Emmons, a leading figure in the advocacy of practising gratitude, regularly being grateful has some definite health benefits. It can boost the immune system and lower blood pressure. There is also evidence that ‘happy’ people, those who are optimistic rather than pessimistic are 77% less likely to have a heart disease. But an article in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research in 2013 found that people who were more positive had better sleep patterns, and good quality sleep is also good for our physical health.
Emotional Well Being
In addition to physical health however, the studies by Emmons indicate that being grateful is a powerful boost for emotional health with people typically experiencing greater levels of pleasure, a more positive outlook and reporting that they felt more alive, alert and optimistic after beginning to regularly practice gratitude.
Social Well Being
In many ways it stands to reason that people who are more positive will find it easier to maintain positive relationships, we may all have experienced a friend or acquaintance who is always negative and often we don’t feel motivated to spend time with them. But in addition, being grateful will often involve thanking people or at least acknowledging either what they have done or the part they play in your life. In the Emmons research people who were grateful typically were more generous, forgiving and helpful in addition to being outgoing and feeling less lonely.
Try it Today
So if gratitude is good for us how do start regularly being grateful? In many ways it is a change of perspective, looking at all the good things that we have rather than focussing on the things we lack. If it is not something that comes naturally it can be learned and it’s worth it. Try some of the following ideas to get you started.
- Each day take time to think of three things you grateful for, this may be easy at the weekend but could be harder if it’s a rainy Monday morning. But there will be things, even if it’s raining you may have an umbrella or a job indoors. If it’s tough just focus on small things to start with.
- Focus on the bright side of events. If something happens and your initial reaction is to complain or grumble – take a pause and think is there any upside to the situation. Obviously that won’t be the case all the time but in a lot of instances there will be something positive.
- Spread the word by expressing to others what you are grateful for and you will find that it automatically makes conversations more positive because it changes the focus.
- Keep a gratitude journal – this is something recommended by Emmons. Try simply listing in a note book some of the things you are grateful for each week. This is a great way to stop yourself taking things for granted.
So being grateful really is great for you – why not get started practising gratitude MORE today.
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