Updated: Jan 9, 2020
There has been a lot of research on the positive effects of gratitude. Practising gratitude fosters resilience, improves physical health (including sleep), improves mental health and well-being, improves your relationships with others and has a positive effect on others. I’d like to invite you to reflect on how being more thankful can benefit your life. If any of this resonates with you, do try this practice out and see what a difference it can make to your life.
Gratitude Fosters Resilience
I work with patients who have cancer. Some of my patients experience a lot of physical pain from their illness, others have to cope with adverse side effects from their chemotherapy, and many experience mental anguish as a result of their life-changing diagnosis. Time and time again, I have seen how the practice of gratitude dramatically increases my patients’ resilience in the face of the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves.
My patients report that when they practice gratitude, they find themselves recognising more things they have to be thankful for, even during difficult times. They savour the big moments, as well as the small ones, during their day. Through this increased gratefulness of the preciousness of life, they stop dwelling solely on the difficulties, and instead also notice the beauty of life. This allows them to cope better with life’s challenges as they have a larger store of positive, compared to negative, experiences from which to draw.
Gratitude improves sleep and physical health
Studies show that people who are grateful report fewer aches and pains than other people. Perhaps this is related to the point I just mentioned, that people learn to place their attention not only on the aches and pains, but also on more pleasant experiences that are present in their lives.
I have noticed that people who practice gratitude also appreciate their good health when it occurs. Most of us take our health for granted. In people who practice gratitude, even if they are not entirely healthy, when they feel comparatively better, they are grateful for this. Consequently, they are also more likely to take care of themselves to encourage optimal health.
Many studies have also shown that spending 15 minutes reflecting on things to be grateful for each evening before going to bed corresponds with participants sleeping better and longer. I encourage all my patients to do this each evening, and often see remarkable differences within a short period of time in those who take on this practice.
Gratitude improves mental health
When we learn to appreciate ourselves more, our self-esteem increases. Studies have shown that practising gratitude also reduces depression, aggression, envy, resentment, frustration, and regret. This is a long list of common afflictions that plague many people. How can we not feel joy, happiness, and love when the above afflictions are dropped?
When we spend our days looking out for things that soften our hearts, rather than getting trapped in unhelpful thought patterns and experiences that estrange us from our connection with ourselves and others, it is not surprising that the power of this practice is able to transform our lives in these remarkable ways.
Establishing this connection is probably also the reason why the practice of gratitude opens our ability to deeply resonate with happiness and loving-kindness and increases our enjoyment of life. And appreciating ourselves makes us kinder to ourselves. When we learn to appreciate ourselves more, naturally our self-esteem increases as a result.
I also teach meditation to beginner and advanced students and have found that students who bring gratitude into their lives are infinitely more open to accessing the fruits of the practice, compared to students who move through life with a sense of entitlement. Gratitude seems to be a very accessible bridge that opens our hearts to the subtler, more exquisite flavours of life.
Gratitude improves relationships with others
The practice of gratitude increases social intelligence in people. We create and maintain better relationships and feel more connected when we are thankful. Let’s imagine these two scenarios for a moment. Which one is more appealing?
You go along with your life in the way you always have. Someone does or says something considerate to you. You take it for granted or don’t even notice this. Life continues as usual.
You practice gratitude. Someone does or says something kind or considerate to you. You are touched by their kindness, and smile in appreciation, gesture in some way or other, or wholeheartedly thank them. You feel good. The other person feels good. You feel connected with each other.
Which scenario would you like to increase in your life?
Gratitude has a positive impact on others
Appreciating others makes us kinder to them. This allows us to feel empathy for others when they are having a hard time. As empathy grows, we are able to more wisely respond to their needs. Trust and stronger relationships are formed, and we are heartened by our ability to have a positive influence on others.
Another thing happens with this. People who practice gratitude often notice that others respond in kind. When we are grateful and express our gratitude to others, other people tend to appreciate this. By practising gratitude, we often also inadvertently encourage others to engage in this practice. This provides a positive loop where our personal practice starts influencing the world around us in a more beneficial way.
Why would you not practice gratitude?
With all these potential benefits to your life, it seems ridiculous not to engage in the practice of gratitude. We have created a 7-day gratitude challenge. These simple and effective steps have improved the lives of many people. Try them out over the next week and see what an improvement this practice can make to your life. It doesn’t take much time, nor effort. The value of this practice only comes when you engage in it. Are you ready? Sign up here to receive the first of 7 emails.
Please feel free to use the accompanying Gratitude Journal to write down your reflections.
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