I would venture to say that most of us hope to be happy, healthy, and productive in our everyday lives. We engage in activities with friends and family, try to exercise and eat well, and do a good job in our chosen work. Sometimes we feel fulfilled and happy and on the right track, sometimes less so.
There is a quality, however, that can increase our chances of attaining all of the above. Moreover, it is a healthy choice for our minds and bodies. That quality is gratitude.
What Is Gratitude?
Merriam-Webster defines gratitude as: the state of being grateful: THANKFULNESS. Being grateful implies that you are thankful for what you have and not desirous of seeking more. It’s appreciation – for your circumstances, family, friends, and the world around you.
It’s acknowledging one’s blessings and enjoying what we have, rather than focusing on what we don’t have.
Research on happiness shows that it is one of the most important factors in achieving a state of well-being. Moreover, gratitude is a malleable quality, meaning that it can be developed and increased over time.
Why Be Grateful?
Being grateful increases our productivity and helps us to be more optimistic. Much research on the subject has been done over the last thirty years and concludes that people who are thankful for their blessings tend to be happier overall and achieve a higher state of health and well-being.
In addition, grateful people tend to have more satisfying relationships, more confidence, better productivity, less stress, increased resilience, and better emotional regulation. They make better employees, managers, are more efficient and find their work more meaningful and fulfilling. They tend to be more financially successful, and have better critical thinking and decision-making skills. Convinced yet?
As mentioned before, gratitude is a malleable quality. You can develop more of it in your life by actively practicing it. Here are a few ways to get started.
Probably the most well-known way to practice gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal. There are many benefits to writing down the things for which we’re grateful— more hopefulness, better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, and a generally increased sense of happiness. The basic practice involves writing down three to five things you are grateful for each day or a few times a week. Keep them brief – my dogs (this comes up for me a lot:), my family, a good meal, a song, the sound of birds singing, a cup of hot tea and a friend. The intention is to become more aware of the good things in our lives so keep it simple – a word or a sentence is enough.
Another way to practice gratitude can be taking a few minutes at the end of the day to deliberately focus on things that went well or something outside of yourself that was beautiful or inspiring, such as a beautiful sunrise or a kind act you witnessed. Maybe you saw a great movie or play.
You can also write a gratitude letter to someone who has made a difference in your life. This can be a family member, friend, mentor, medical professional or teacher. Or simply say thank you to a colleague or employee who went out of their way to help you with something.
The key to gratitude is deliberately focusing on the positive relationships, occurrences, and good things in your life. Focusing on positive relationships expands your sense of well-being and strengthens your connections with others. The more you commit to the active practice of gratitude, the more you will experience a sense of well-being in your own life and with others. Like any muscle we exercise regularly, gratitude grows stronger over time when we make it a regular part of our life.
I am grateful you took the time to read to the end of this article – thank you!
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