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Gratitude: The Benefits and How to Practice It

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Health Tips

Gratitude: The Benefits and How to Practice It

While it’s not always easy, being grateful for the positives in life can have a profound impact on your mood, outlook, and overall well-being. Here’s how to increase your gratefulness.

What is gratitude?

Gratitude involves showing appreciation for the things in life that are meaningful or valuable to you. Taking a moment to notice and acknowledge the things you’re grateful for each day can brighten your outlook, boost your mood, and help you feel more positive in the face of challenges.

Whatever your circumstances in life, you may find that consistently showing gratitude can be surprisingly difficult. Many of us get caught up in a negativity bias, where we linger on bad news and unpleasant experiences, yet allow moments of positivity to fade into the background.

Fortunately, gratitude is like a muscle that you can build. With the right exercises and practice, you can find at least something small to appreciate in even the bleakest day. The idea of cultivating gratitude might sound cheesy, but research has shown that it can have very real benefits. With these tips, you can use gratitude to uplift your mood, find respite from negativity, foster stronger relationships, and even change the way you view yourself.

Benefits of practicing gratitude

A little gratitude can do wonders for your mood. When you practice gratitude, you shift your thoughts away from negative emotions and uncomfortable sensations. Instead, you begin to focus on good things that you may have overlooked.

Because gratitude can boost your mood, it's no surprise that it can also improve your overall mental health. As you practice gratitude, you may notice a decrease in symptoms of depression and anxiety. While gratitude alone may not be a magic bullet to mental health issues, it can be one part of a broader treatment plan.

Approaching life with a more positive mindset can do more than just improve your mood. It can have cascading benefits in other areas of your life, such as better sleep, improved focus, higher self-esteem, and increased patience.

Social benefits

Gratitude has the potential to enhance the quality of your relationships. Expressing your appreciation for a friend or family member shows them that you care and opens the door for more positive interactions in the future.

Gratitude can have social benefits that extend beyond your relationships with loved ones. Research shows that being on the receiving end of gratitude can lead even acquaintances to be more helpful and generous. Try telling coworkers or neighbors how much you appreciate them. You could create a chain reaction of prosocial behavior that enhances your workplace or community.

Physical health benefits

Gratitude can also come with several physical benefits. For example, as your gratefulness reduces your stress and brings you closer to loved ones, you may see a decrease in your blood pressure and levels of inflammation. This can give way to better overall cardiovascular health.

Research also shows that grateful people are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors, such as exercising regularly and following a healthy diet. This may be because they’re able to reframe healthy lifestyle choices as opportunities rather than obstacles.

Tips on cultivating gratitude

Cultivating gratitude isn’t a complicated endeavor, but it does require effort and a commitment to change. The following exercises can help you take on a grateful outlook, especially if you’re dealing with roadblocks such as depression, stress, or envy.

  • Practice mindfulness: Remembering to slow down and savor little moments in your life can be a way to cultivate gratitude. Tap into your senses and let your mind linger on pleasant, everyday sensations.
  • Keep a gratitude journal: Many people find it beneficial to make a habit of writing down several things that you're grateful for before bed. However, don’t journal so often that the practice begins to feel like a chore. Aim to be consistent and work on your journal at the same time each day or week.
  • Write notes of appreciation: Build relationships by writing thank-you letters to people in your life. Go into detail about treasured memories from your relationship, including the seemingly insignificant interactions and moments of lightheartedness they may have forgotten about.

If you're feeling stressed or depressed, positivity is often hard to come by. However, even on the worst days, if you look hard enough you can usually find at least one thing to be grateful about. Keep an eye out for small moments of pleasure—the smell of good food, playtime with a pet, or a catchy tune on the radio. Noticing even the tiniest glimmers of positivity can make a big difference in your day.

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