With Thanksgiving just around the corner there is usually more talk of gratitude this time of year. But an attitude of gratitude is more than just a tired cliche. Did you know that being grateful is beneficial all year long?
Alert, enthusiastic, determined, energized:
Self-guided daily gratitude exercises in young adults resulted in higher reported levels of positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, and energy compared to a focus on hassles or downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others).
Want more exercise?
Compared to a group keeping weekly journals on hassles or neutral life events, people keeping weekly gratitude journals exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week.
Achieve those goals!
Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward personal goals (academic, interpersonal, and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in other experimental conditions.
Lend a helping hand:
Participants in daily gratitude were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another.
A sample of adults with neuromuscular disease found a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in a greater amount of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one's life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.
Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The tendency toward gratitude seems to boost pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.
People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others. They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks.
It even works on kids!
Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families.
(These studies are from the Universities of California and Miami.)
Suggestions for adding gratitude to your life:
Write it down:
Keep a gratitude journal where you write down what you are grateful for. Keep it on your nightstand and add at least one item when you wake up and at least one item when you go to bed.
Whenever you are driving and you come to a stop, whether it's for a light, a stop sign, or the end of your journey think of something you are grateful for.
Share the love:
If there's a person you are grateful for, let them know! Make sure to say what it is you are grateful for. Was it their smile? Maybe you appreciate something they've done. Or perhaps you really enjoy their warmth. Tell them!
Food counts too:
Each time you consume food, consider all the people, plants, and animals who brought it to you. Send your thanks to each element of what it takes to nourish you.