Better Life Through Gratitude

When was the last time you thought about what you are thankful for and appreciate in life? Often, we gravitate toward and mull over the things that go wrong and dismiss things that go right, and for this we have our brains to thank. While it’s easier to focus on the negative, practicing small acts of gratitude every day can help you lead a more fulfilling and healthful life.

Benefits of Gratitude

Humans are hardwired to identify and target negative experiences. In fact, we’re so good at it that it takes five positive experiences to counteract one negative one. With that understanding, humans can use the positive power of gratitude to reduce the impact of negative experiences and thrive, both mentally and physically.

Showing appreciation for kindnesses, blessings, and positive experiences creates a physical chain reaction in the body. It reduces negative emotions while increasing positive emotions for improved psychological health. In turn, the practice can stabilize mood swings and enable individuals to engage in building healthy habits (i.e., when you feel good, you do good and vice versa). Gracious individuals worry less, sleep better, and maintain long-term relationships. The benefits are all connected and cumulative, meaning the more you practice gratitude, the better the results.

Cultivating Gratitude

Individuals practice gratitude in several ways. If you’re searching for a simple way to enrich your life, feel happier, and accomplish more, consider incorporating these 5 tips for expressing gratitude in daily life:

  1. Thank people for their efforts. Whether someone does something unexpectedly helpful or simply completes a routine chore at home, say thank you. Showing your appreciation lets others know you don’t take them for granted and helps you remember what others do for you daily. An unexpected thank you can completely transform someone’s day.
  1. Keep a log. When researchers study the effects of gratitude on feelings and behaviors, they often ask individuals to write down thankfulness lists every day. Sit down with an old-fashioned paper and pen. Set a timer for five minutes, and write everything you can think of to appreciate – from the perfectly poured mug of coffee you didn’t spill to the lighter-than-normal traffic you enjoyed during a typical rush hour.
  1. Help others. Volunteer, hold the door open for a colleague who is running late, and pick up a dropped cane for an old man. Small acts of helpfulness fulfill the human need for social interaction. Research suggests volunteer work increases short-term well-being.
  1. Reframe obstacles. While the frustrations of your latest work project may draw you in like a magnet, try to change your perspective. Think about your long-term goals, consider the bright side of your current obstacles, and write down any skills you build along the way.
  1. Take it to work. When someone answers the phone with a bright voice and a positive attitude, others tend to respond in kind. Pay your own gratitude exercises forward in the workplace. Thank your coworkers for their support and use kindness as a tool for creating an inclusive and supportive workplace environment.

You won’t find disadvantages in practicing sincere gratitude exercises. With a few simple words, a smile, and a helping hand, you can heal yourself and lift others up anywhere you go.

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