The Importance of Gratitude Practices
What Is Gratitude?
Gratitude is a mindful and meaningful appreciation for people, things, activities, attributes or experiences. Mindfulness and gratitude go hand in hand and it’s a lovely exercise to notice and identify the small things to be grateful for. It’s an internal idea that generates a positive emotional response. Many times when people talk about what they are grateful for, the word and idea seem like it has to be BIG. A huge event, or incredibly meaningful people. Often life events or life partners are referenced, and that is not wrong, but there is much more to gratitude.
Having an attitude of gratitude
Gratitude can be found in every situation, even the darker or yucky ones. Having an attitude of gratitude requires a change in perspective for many people, it’s a new habit to develop. It may not come easy at first, but with a little practice, you’ll start to notice small things to be grateful for.
In addition to the big life events or relationships that you celebrate, start to look for the small things too. Here is a list of examples of things you may be grateful for to get you in the right frame of mind:
- The first sip of coffee or tea in the morning
- The person who let you merge in traffic rather than boxing you out
- The barista/grocery clerk/neighbor/mail-person/etc who gave you a warm smile and told you to have a great day
- The leaves changing color
- Jumping in the ocean or pool on a hot day
- Your favorite app that you use everyday
Do you see the difference between this list and the large events like “meeting the love of my life” or “graduating college”? These are small everyday moments that when viewed through the lens of gratitude, add up to a lot of positive experiences.
Let’s take the merging in traffic example, I bet everyone can relate to that. Being stuck in traffic is, well, frustrating. You can’t get to where you want to go quickly, you tend to be more tense, you might even be running late for an appointment which adds to the stress. If you view the traffic and associated vehicles as obstacles who are just causing you frustration, you’re likely to have a sour attitude. Now, you realize you need to merge. You can view the situation as more frustrating and when you’re let into the lane, treat it as if it’s your entitlement. OR, you can view the car that let you in as doing you a favor, having compassion for you needing to be in a different lane and be thankful for that kind person. Same exact situation, the only difference is your attitude and how you see it.
Benefit of gratitude practice
Practicing gratitude regularly has several benefits. Studies show it positively affects mental and physical health, as well as improves sleep. It causes you to slow down and be more observant of your surroundings, which means you are more present. When you are more present, you are less likely to be ruminating on the past or fantasizing the future.
It has the ability to improve mood and help with depression and anxiety. It can make you more approachable and friendlier, thereby improving existing and new relationships. Having a positive attitude is not the only the thing you need to be healthy, but it does help strengthen the immune system and lower stress, which naturally makes you more resilient and less prone to short term sniffles and long term disease.
It’s also shown to improve sleep, which is reason enough to give it a try. Stress and racing thoughts keep your brain going when it should be rested. Taking time to be present and grateful, and the accompanying physical and psychological impacts signals to your brain that it can take a break, rest and recoup.
If you love lists, here are the reasons to form a habit of gratitude:
- Helps you be present
- Improves relationships
- Improves mood
- Reduces depression & anxiety
- Improves sleep
- Boosts immunity
- Lowers stress and related effects
If you're looking for a way to improve your mood and mindset, reduce stress and improve relationships, try practicing gratitude. With our busy lives it's easy to forget to do it because we’re often on the go. But as this article points out, there are plenty of benefits that come with an attitude of gratitude. So what will you do today? Will you say thank-you more often or be more mindful about recognizing people and events that make your day easier? Let us know in the comments below and thank you for reading this post :)