Let’s Talk

Giving Thanks – How Gratitude Can Change Your Life

Positive PsychologyMost people view gratitude as a polite expression of appreciation for help, a gift, or any other type of benefit. However, a number of psychologists are finding that an overall “attitude of gratitude” can have a positive effect on your life.

Benefits of Gratitude

The benefits of adopting a grateful attitude are far-reaching, often impacting not only our own lives, but those around us as well. A few benefits of practicing gratitude include:

Increase in optimism

People who practice gratitude, whether on a spiritual or social plane, are more likely to have a positive outlook on life. They are more likely to focus on positive things rather than on negative ones. Optimistic people are generally happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who are continually focusing on the negative or overlook things to be grateful about. They are also better at coping with stressful or painful situations.

Better mental and physical health

Grateful people are typically healthier, both mentally and physically. Because gratitude leads to calmness, peace, and overall happiness, people who are grateful are less likely to be depressed or anxious than their ungrateful counterparts. Grateful people are also less likely to experience the physical maladies associated with anxiety and depression, including increased blood pressure or likelihood of stroke.

Enhanced relationships

Gratitude not only benefits those who are expressing thanks, but those who are on the receiving end as well. Gratitude is a positive reinforcer that encourages people to continue helping others. People who feel that their efforts are appreciated in any setting, whether at home or work, are more likely to maintain their altruism. Relationships improve because the person you are thanking feels validated and appreciated instead of taken advantage of or overlooked.

Practicing Gratitude in Daily Life

Now that you know a few of the benefits of practicing gratitude, you can work towards implementing gratitude in your life. Some easy ways to be more grateful include:

Say thank you

It sounds simple, and it’s something most people were taught from the time they were little, but simply thanking people is becoming a lost art. Look for situations to thank people, and then do it. It could be anything from thanking a stranger for holding a door open for you to thanking your spouse for making dinner.

List the things you’re thankful for

This is especially helpful if you are feeling discouraged. Sit down and write a list about all of the things you are grateful for, then make it a point to add to the list at least once a week, working up to every day. This will force you to look for things to be grateful for, which will in turn, show you how meaningful your life really is..

Adopt a different perspective

You are more likely to be grateful for the actions of others when you look at them through another person’s viewpoint. For example, let’s say your husband picked up dinner on the way home from work. This may seem like a little thing, but think of how you feel at the end of a long day at work—tired, eager to get home and relax – not run an errand or wait in traffic to pick up food; he’s tired too, but he’s picked up dinner, saving you a trip.  This perspective will help you appreciate the kindness and little deeds of others.

At the same time, you can compare your own situation to others, especially if you are feeling down. If you lose your job, be grateful you still have your health, a home, and a family. Putting things in perspective can help you be grateful for what you do have rather than what you do not have.

Gratitude not only changes your own life by improving your overall mental and physical health, but the lives of others as well.