Research has demonstrated an impressive array of benefits from practicing gratitude. It acts a super powerful mood enhancer, can sharpen our attention system, and supports many other aspects of our health and wellbeing.
Including articles on positive psychology is a great way to inspire employees towards engaging in health and wellbeing, so include it in your health and wellbeing promotion, whether it be through written materials or providing a talk.
For some of us, the thought of writing a daily gratitude journal of things we are most grateful for, might seem a bit ‘touchy-feely’. However research studies, such as those conducted by Martin Seligman, a renowned US psychologist whose work focuses on the effects of positive psychology, have shown that the act of writing down what we are grateful for in our lives (rather than just thinking or verbalizing gratitude) helps increase happiness and decrease negative emotions. Other studies looking at the effects of practicing gratitude have demonstrated an impressive array of benefits including enhancing many aspects of our mental and physical wellbeing, and acting as a super-powerful mood enhancer.
Benefits for your mental health and wellbeing of practicing gratitude
- widens perspective
- enhances optimism
- increases our tendency to focus on the bright side of things and away from the negative
- increases happiness
- makes us appreciate what we have rather than focusing on what we lack
- tempers the pursuit of more
- sharpens our attention
- supports us through tough times
- opens our heart, making us feel more generous, compassionate, and connected to others
- enhances our mental and physical health in a multitude of ways
- strengthens the immune system
- boosts serotonin and dopamine and lifts our mood which helps us better cope with stress and pain
- improves sleep
- makes us less prone to anger, stress, worry and depression
- helps us to be more mindful and in the present moment
- strengthens our connections to others
- helps to enhance qualities such as friendliness and thoughtfulness, which in turn make others feel good
- decreases feelings of loneliness.
Unlimited opportunities for gratitude
Every day, life offers us unlimited opportunities to be grateful. However, many of these events are taken for granted, go by unnoticed and unacknowledged. We need to sharpen our attention, so we don’t miss out on any of the ordinary miracles of day-to-day life. Especially when we are stressed or under pressure, we often develop tunnel vision and are only able to focus on what’s not right, rather than what is.
For instance, when we are healthy, we don’t typically give our physical health much thought, but when we become unwell, we pay attention to the symptoms we experience, whether it be pain, disability or another type of debilitating symptom. As we recover, we of course feel gratitude and relief, however as time passes, gratitude for our physical health falls out of our awareness. Ideally, we want to appreciate our health before we become unwell.
Grass is greener
Why is it we are always wanting better things? Always wishing for more? By focusing on what we lack, it’s impossible to feel happy and satisfied and the more we do so, the more prevalent that feeling becomes. Many of us are addicted to the ‘not enough’ syndrome. What we have is never enough, so we rush out and buy new things we are missing, search for that higher paying job, or perfect relationship. And for a while, things are great – until they’re not. Unfortunately, nothing stays shiny and new for long. No job is perfect, and no relationship comes without challenges. So, we end up right back where we started, wishing and wanting more, and the vicious cycle continues.
Practicing gratitude has the power to completely change your perspective, to experience wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for what you have.
Gratitude journal for supporting your wellbeing
For those that take ‘the glass is half empty’ view of life, finding gratitude can be challenging. However, the act of showing gratitude is a practice that you can develop into a habit, by taking a few minutes each day to focus on what is good in your life. A gratitude journal is a good starting place and ideally practicing this every day before bed, but any time that suits is fine. The idea is to create a list of 3-5 things for which you are grateful. It could be anything, something that happened throughout your day, something that previously you took for granted like enjoying a warm shower, appreciating a beautiful sunny day, the enjoyment of a coffee break, a nice meal, a laugh with a friend, or things such as your health, your job, an act of kindness, or a skill you possess. You can also feel gratitude for things that are yet to happen, like weekend plans you are looking forward to.
Sometimes at first, it is difficult to come up with ideas especially if we’re going through challenging times, but this is when gratitude is most important. The more you journal, the easier it becomes; naturally you will start looking for things to be grateful for, and it will start to take much less effort.
Another way to help you practice gratitude is to carry a gratitude reminder object. It could be a small pebble, a marble, or anything you can carry in a pocket or bag. Each time you feel it, it will remind you of something you are thankful for.
Another option is to think of a gratitude sign. In the same way we use alarms to wake us up or remind us of appointments, we can use gratitude signs to remind us to be grateful throughout the day e.g. an airplane flying above, or a post-it note on the fridge. It doesn’t matter what you choose, the point is that every time you notice your designated gratitude sign, you stop and take a moment to remind yourself what you are grateful for.
All of us have relationships with others of one kind or another: partners, parents, siblings, children, grandparents, friends, colleagues, clients, and business associates. If we are lucky, they are good ones. However, it is easy to take all these relationships for granted as we tend to have expectations.
Also, acts of kindness and thoughtfulness towards us and others often go by unnoticed and unacknowledged. There are other times, we may feel grateful towards people in our lives, but we forget to express it, or assume they already know how we feel.
Take a moment to express gratitude to those people in your life wherever you can, not only will you feel the benefit of acknowledging and expressing gratitude, but they will feel encouraged and valued too.
Gratitude during hard times
What about when we face challenges, loss, or adversity, and believe there is no room for gratitude? Gratitude can help us grow through these hard times, having the power to change our perspective and build our resilience.
Although we may not always be thankful for our circumstances at the time, we can still be thankful for what the experience has taught us; the lessons, wisdom, and perspective that we have gained from the experience. Sometimes they are not visible straight away, but with patience and time, benefits will be revealed.
How Thrive4Life can help!
Thrive4Life can provide customised Line Manager training as well as MHFA and Wellbeing Champion training. We offer health promotion in the form of an extensive library of engaging content with well-designed articles / ePublications and monthly specialist talks on all aspects of health and wellbeing.
For companies who are looking for support with a strategy and ongoing process of health and wellbeing engagement that they can build over time, Thrive4Life has used a backdrop of over 30 years’ experience of delivering specialist health, safety and wellbeing guidance across multiple industries to develop an innovative, cost-effective solution that can help any size of organisation in the form of a fully customisable Health and Wellbeing Discovery Hub.
For more information about Thrive4Life services and training courses, get in touch or call us on 020 8972 9675.