We all know that gratitude is a good thing—something that fills your mind with positivity, lifts your mood, and helps you to view the world more positively.
But it turns out that gratitude might have a bigger impact than you realize.
While we all feel a sense of gratitude from time to time, whether it’s after receiving a spontaneous gift or being awarded something, the truth is that gratitude doesn’t have to just be a feeling you get on a rare occasion. If cultivated and practiced, it can become a way of life. There’s even evidence to suggest that practicing gratitude can change the way you think of the world and rewire your brain and body for happiness—and even health.
So just how does it work and how do you go about living a life that’s continually filled with gratitude? Let’s look at that now.
Benefits of Gratitude
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to living a life of gratitude, studies show that gratitude can go a long way in helping to change the way we think. Here are a few key benefits of gratitude:
- Blocks Negative and Toxic Emotions
You cannot be both envious and grateful at the same time. By choosing gratitude, you are essentially blocking negative and toxic emotions; filling the space with positive thoughts instead. Room for emotions such as envy, regret, and resentment is reduced when you fill the space with grateful thoughts instead.
- Reduces Anxiety and Stress
Grateful people are often more resistant to stress. According to one study, subjects who were grateful were faster in their recoveries after something traumatic, than those who weren’t.
- Activates the Hypothalamus
The hypothalamus is the part of your brain that is responsible for regulating your bodily functions such as sleep, metabolism, and hunger. It is one of the body’s control centers, and gratitude appears to motivate it to excel. According to a series of studies using MRIs of brains, the limbic system in general, of which the hypothalamus is a part, is activated when we feel gratitude, pride, or do something altruistic for somebody else.
And there’s more! In fact, people who keep gratitude journals consistently report a host of benefits—including a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, sleeping longer, and being less bothered by aches and pains; just to name a few.
How to Practice Gratitude
Practicing gratitude can seem difficult at first, but being grateful and showing it could help train the mind to develop better habits. With this in mind, here’s a look at some simple ways to do so.
- Spend Time Outside
When you are constantly bombarded with negativity, from the news to advertisements, from social media to phone calls, you can start to feel the impact it has on your life. Taking a few minutes each day to go outside and being in the silence of nature can help you reflect on what’s really important, shifting your mindset to one of gratitude.
- Act It Out to Others
There are opportunities all around you to show your gratitude. You can express it to a close friend or family member, or even to a complete stranger. When you share some of your gratitude with others, it spills over into their lives and gives them that happy feeling as well.
- Be Mindful
Having a hard time thinking of something to be grateful for? All you really need to do is take a good look around you. Paying attention to what you have—instead of what you don’t—to boost your grateful spirit.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal
Keeping a gratitude journal is perhaps one of the best ways to practice gratitude. Writing down just a few things you are grateful for every day (or even just one!) can help make the process easier and even addicting. It really is quite simple. Just write a few things down each morning or evening that you’re thankful for. This will help to give you a new perspective on what’s important and will remind you of just how much you have to be thankful for.
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Gratitude is addicting. Once you practice looking at the world through a grateful lens, you’ll find that the feelings that you get in return will make you want to do it again! Try it for yourself. Take note, and over time, see how your life has changed.
Do you notice a difference when you focus on the positive? Tell us about your experience below!