Gratitude could change your life for the better and permanently if you understood how to practice gratitude and how powerful it is for human health and well-being. Given the level of unhappiness in the world, I believe that it is a safe assessment that some gratitude is missing because one of the benefits of having gratitude is happiness. If you want to increase your happiness levels then developing gratitude is one excellent way to accomplish that. If happiness is what you need you can find more about happiness in a previous post on how you can learn how to generate your own happiness. Gratitude has been written about since the beginning of mankind and is the inspiration or content of songs, books, quotations and much more. Yet, the research in the area of gratitude is fairly young in comparison.
What Is Gratitude?
Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. The academic definition of gratitude includes a two-step process which includes recognizing you have received a good result or outcome coupled with recognizing that there is an outside or external source for this positive outcome or good result. Two different ways of stating the same thing. We all mostly recognize gratitude when we hear it or see it.
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” Epictetus (Epictetus was a Greek Stoic philosopher born a slave in Hierapolis, Phrygia in 50 AD.)
Now for my normal waiver and warning: If you are having thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Speak up. Tell someone. Your life has meaning and a purpose even if you have not found it yet. People care about you even if you think that they don’t. I am not a medical professional in any way. You should get your medical advice from a licensed medical professional. If you have persistent thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek medical help immediately.
I am a huge fan of having gratitude. It is a way of life for me. Because I have lived this way for so long I actually had to do some research on the benefits of gratitude to see what the science shows. It was amazing! This is the compiled list, which only includes the known and agreed upon benefits – not the ones still being researched and proven.
Benefits of Having Gratitude
- Increases happiness
- Reduces pain
- Releases toxic emotions
- Improves sleep quality
- Reduces cardiac diseases
- Reduces inflammations
- Reduces neurodegeneration significantly
- Increases energy
- Increases vitality
- Increases enthusiasm
- Helps in stress regulation
- Reduces anxiety
- Reduces depression
- Helps build emotional resilience
- Helps you focus on the good things in life
- Helps you stay in reality, the present, even when things are bad
- Promotes solution-oriented thinking
- Improves relationships
- Provides increased motivation via serotonin, dopamine & oxytocin transmitters that make you feel good
- Increases self-esteem
- Helps people meet their basic psychological needs
Let that sink in. Isn’t that amazing? Awesome? Simply overwhelming? The science is in and developing gratitude is miraculous in terms of the benefits it offers our health and well-being. What this means is that gratitude is one powerful thing to focus on if you want to be happier and healthier. It means that gratitude is absolutely the muscle to build unless you just want to whine and complain about your life. Unless you just want to be the victim to your circumstances, your life, your past or whatever. You get to choose.
Then why are we not more grateful? Here’s a first pass at some of the reasons why we struggle at being grateful.
Reasons Why People Struggle with Being Grateful
- They are having serious issues and are in pain and suffering.
- They are spoiled or have an entitlement mentality.
- They have unrealistic expectations.
- They have low self-esteem.
- They are prone to negative thinking or are a pessimist.
- They feel sorry for themselves or have the victim mentality.
- They have addictions like drugs or alcohol that are problematic.
- They are narcissists or have some other psychopathology.
- They are bitter or envious of others.
- They are simply self-centered.
- They have the temperament that they are never satisfied.
- They might have boundary issues.
- They simply don’t know enough about poverty and other serious issues facing people in the world.
- They don’t know people who are worse off than they are.
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” Cicero (Cicero was a Roman statesman, lawyer and Academic Skeptic philosopher from Italy born in 106 BC.)
I understand all too well that some of you have great difficulty with being grateful or having gratitude in your life. To help you with that I am going to give you a helpful hot list of things that most of you can be grateful for in your life. Notice that I said that most of you can be grateful for…
Things You Can be Grateful for:
- Having sufficient food
- Having clean water
- Have safe shelter or a place to live
- Friends (Read this if you need to make new friends or more friends)
- Employment or income
- Good weather
- Children/Nieces or Nephews
- Beauty…in art, people, nature and so many things
- That you are alive today
- For your health
- For financial security
- For your hobbies (read this if you need to hobby up)
- That your mind/brain is working
- That you can read this
- That you can create your life as you want it to be (read this for how to start that)
- That you are not in jail
- For laughter
- That you can change
- That you are a good person (read this if you have doubts about that)
- That you have time (read this for ideas on time management)
- For your skills and abilities
- For God and your faith
- That you have the gift of speech, vision or hearing
As someone who is more often than not in a state of gratitude, I express my appreciation for people in my life on a daily basis. I say thank you everywhere I can to everyone I can. I write handwritten thank you notes as often as needed. You would be surprised the impact that a handwritten thank you note has on the receiver. One time I was in line at the car dealership and a man said hello to me as if he knew me. Shortly thereafter when he realized that I didn’t recognize him, he explained who he was and that he had my written thank you note taped to his locker. That thank you note had been written a few years before our chance encounter. What I learned then was that it can be deeply meaningful for a person in a paid position to receive a thank you note for simply doing their job.
I not only write thank you notes, I take little treats to people who matter to me and help me along the way. For me gratitude is a natural expression of loving my life and the people in it. There are so many things we can each be grateful for. Practice that muscle and it will grow and grow until it is the most natural expression of you and your love of the little things in life.
- Keep a gratitude journal or list. Do that until the practice of gratitude is so natural that you don’t have to think about it – it just comes automatically.
- Personal growth and development. Do the work. See this post on the benefits of personal growth and development or this post on emotional intelligence.
- Stop the negative thinking and pessimism.
- Have a road map for your life or a plan or vision and execute your plan!
- Find those less fortunate and help them! Volunteer and get involved in your community. There are lots of people who could use your help!
- Be present. Be here now. Live in the moment.
- Write thank you notes to people who you are grateful to and snail mail your note! Do this as often as you can!
“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” Aesop
Call to Action:
Being grateful is free because it is a state of mind hopefully coupled with words expressed to another person. Are you willing to allow yourself to have the miracles of gratitude in your life with all of the benefits of health and wellness? How can I help you grow your gratitude muscles? Who do you know who could benefit from reading this post? Please leave me a comment if you have a question that I can help you with. Please share this post with your friends or family or on social media. I am here to lovingly support you in your journey through life. How can I help you?