Depression and anxiety can loom over you, making you feel as if there is nothing in life left to enjoy, nothing that brings you satisfaction and nobody that seems to care. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Training your mind to think positively and focus on what you do have rather than what is missing, will bring great changes to your mindset. The benefits of gratitude greatly outweigh any presence of negativity in your life.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is not only an emotion, but it is also a choice. We receive gifts and blessings in our lives, however, it is our choice whether or not we take our good fortunes for granted or recognize and appreciate them from the bottom of our hearts.
Being grateful goes beyond simply saying, Thank you. A true, deep appreciation will cause a lasting effect on your mindset, allowing you to approach every event and opportunity with the acknowledgment of the abundant goodness in your life. Gratitude is not just a feeling or temporary state, it becomes a part of who you are.
Harvard medical school explains that gratitude is, “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”
Being grateful drives out feelings of discontent, jealousy, worry, and irritability. A grateful mindset allows you to look at your life in a state of awe, not being able to fathom how many gifts you have received in your life. In gratitude, there is no room for wishing you could be anybody else, anywhere else, or doing something different than what you are doing now. Gratitude is being thankful for what you have right now.
The benefits of gratitude and accepting it into your life are truly life-altering and can be a spiritual and peaceful experience.
How to Express Gratitude
As mentioned before, expressing gratitude is not saying thank you out of habit due to societal expectations. It is more than that. Gratitude can be expressed in all aspects of life, and in more ways than you likely thought possible. Expressing gratitude can be used as a strategy to achieve ultimate joy that results in an incredible sense of contentment and security in yourself.
Even the smallest of actions can come from a place of gratitude, and can be contagious to others as well; being thankful improves others lives. Here are a few ways you can express gratitude:
1. Don’t Allow Negative Setbacks Get You Down
Understand that life is full of both happiness and heartbreak and ALL of the emotions in between. It is part of the life experience. Feeling emotions is natural. Brene Brown states, “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” Feel and express them at the appropriate moments and find the beauty in both the pain and the joy.
2. Listen Intently to Others
Don’t occupy your mind with what you are going to say next or looking at your phone. Listening with purpose lets the other person know that you appreciate their words, their time, and their company. It builds meaningful relationships with others. Be grateful that this person is choosing to spend the present moment with you. Don’t waste their time, but don’t let them waste your time either.
3. Talk to a Mentor from Your Past
Tell your mentor how much they have impacted your life. How did they change your mindset? How did they help you find direction and motivate you? What characteristics do you admire in them? Expressing gratitude to someone you look up to will benefit both you and your mentor.
4. Genuinely Thank Someone Close to You
Thank your significant other, your best friend, or your mom for loving you, taking care of you, providing for you, cheering you on, and never giving up on you.
5. Be Present
Be aware of the present moment. Let go of the distractions of racing thoughts and worries in your mind. Feel the nice outdoor breeze on your skin. See how happy your children are at the playground. Notice how excited your dog is to see you when you get home from work. The benefits of gratitude really come from being in the moment and appreciating what is right in front of you.
6. Return the Favor
Use your blessings and opportunities to help and encourage others.
7. Thank God, the Universe, Mother Nature
8. Be Thankful for Difficult Experiences
Understand that every encounter in life teaches you something, being grateful for insight received from rough times in life.
9. Verbalize Your Gratitude
When somebody goes above and beyond for you, genuinely thanking them in person goes a long way, and is way more personal. A lot of people verbalize complaints, but if you had an outstanding waiter, express your gratitude and let their manager know.
Be warm to others and be approachable.
11. Be Thoughtful
Go out of your way to make someone’s day, bring them a treat back when you go on a coffee run, make people feel special and that you were thinking of them.
12. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Studies show that those who write down their blessings are “more optimistic and more satisfied with their lives. Even their health received a boost; they reported fewer physical symptoms (such as a headache, acne, coughing, or nausea) and more time spent exercising.”
What is a Gratitude Journal?
A gratitude journal is for individuals who want to truly dive into the abundance in their lives. The benefits of gratitude are endless, and writing your blessings down in a journal is the perfect way to meditate on and appreciate the good fortune in your life. Also, when you are feeling down, you can refer back to your gratitude journal to recenter yourself and remember that there is more positivity than negativity.
1. Pick a Notebook
Find a journal that has an inspiring quote, a beautiful picture of nature, or something else that inspires you. This will make you more excited to pick it up and write.
2. Make a Conscious Decision
The benefits of gratitude are not only manifested when you begin your journal. Before you start writing, tell yourself that this is the beginning of a new chapter in your life. This is a chapter in which you will make incredible changes and bring forth the happiness that you are always chasing. You must make a switch in your brain, have a passionate want/need for positivity and the abundance that gratefulness brings to your life.
3. Do Not Write Every Single Day
This may seem like the opposite of what is effective, but studies actually show that “people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t.” You don’t want writing to feel like a chore. Instead, you want to feel the urge to write, the urge to reflect on how wonderful your week played out. However, if writing everyday works for you, do it! Writing first thing in the morning, or right before bed are wonderful ways to start or end your day on a positive note.
4. Don’t Forget the Little Things
Don’t forget to be grateful for your health, for your able limbs that allow you to walk your child into school, your ability to drive, your lucrative job or your successful education. The little things might be the foundation for many of the great blessings in your life.
5. Focus On People
Who are you grateful for? Why? How would your life be different without them? What have they taught you? The benefits of gratitude include that it will improve your relationship with those you love since you will be reflecting on all of the positive ways in which they have improved your life.
How Gratitude Eases Depression and Anxiety
Among the many benefits that gratitude brings to your life, the fact that they can ease anxiety and depression can be life-changing.
When you are suffering from anxiety or depression, your mind is usually wired to think of the negative, the worrisome and the uncontrollable aspects in your life. The benefits of gratitude include that they are capable of rewiring your brain to chase after the positive instead.
How the Practice of Gratitude Works in Your Brain
Change of Perspective
Practicing gratitude brings your focus outward. A study shows that “practicing gratitude can decrease levels of depression and anxiety.” Often, depression and anxiety can trap you inside of your own head, struggling to function in daily life, and feeling overwhelmed and out of control.
Instead of ruminating over your life and wishing it would change, being grateful will bring you out of your own head, and into the light of awareness of the good surrounding you. You will spend less time feeling sorry for yourself, and more time appreciating the people around you that care. Suddenly, the benefits of gratitude will be so present in your life that depression and anxiety will be things of the past.
Change in Brain Chemicals
As reported by The New York Times, “gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus (a key part of the brain that regulates stress) and the ventral tegmental area (part of our “reward circuitry” that produces the sensation of pleasure).”
Also, gratitude can seriously reduce levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in your brain. Your thoughts create “neural pathways and the more thoughts on a subject the stronger that neural pathway becomes. Our brains have to automate most of our thinking just to get through the day so the strongest neural pathways are the default thinking.”
Your brain will react to positive thinking, and it will rewire those neural pathways so that you will continue thinking that way in the future. This is one of the greatest benefits of gratitude. Who knew that thought changes could switch your whole life around?
21 Benefits of Gratitude
If you aren’t already convinced that gratitude can seriously impact your life in positive ways, here is a list of 21 benefits of gratitude that will manifest that happiness you are striving for:
1. Gratitude Attracts Friends
When you are appreciative of your life, and you do not live with envy or irritability, you will attract positive people into your life. Gratitude makes you more sociable and open to new relationships.
2. Improved Relationships
When you are grateful, you are not wishing for more from your significant other or from your friends. You acknowledge their positive characteristics and that makes them want to be better; both in their lives and in yours.
3. Better Work Performance
Approaching problems with a clear mind and without feelings of resentment allows for better decision making, more productivity, and a pleasant work environment.
Gratitude brings confidence and faith in yourself, and faith that situations will work out in your best interest. Practicing gratefulness will make you brave and rid you of inhibitions.
5. It Makes You Less Materialistic
Another benefit of gratitude is that it guides your appreciation towards intangible things. You will be more thankful for your relationships with your friends and your family. Buying material objects will no longer be a source of fulfillment as you will realize it is not a genuine source of happiness.
6. You will Sleep Better
More gratitude means less stress, and less stress means better sleep. You won’t find yourself tossing and turning at night, worrying and feeling anxious.
With gratitude comes the understanding that even setbacks can be blessings. You didn’t get that job you were hoping for? That’s because there is something better for you on the horizon. Gratitude will keep you from feeling defeated.
8. You Will Be Less Self-Centered
Gratitude will focus your attention less on yourself, and more on loving people and situations around you.
9. You Will Exercise More
Being grateful for your health will make you more inclined to take care of yourself.
10. Gratitude Helps You Relax
The benefits of gratitude include improved ability to relax and take a breath. When you feel grateful, you are not constantly striving to be better or make changes in your life. Rest is healthy, so it is important to be able to truly relax.
11. Increased Energy
With gratefulness for being alive comes the motivation to take advantage of every moment.
12. Make you more Empathetic
When you are grateful, you are more open to feeling emotion. This will cause you to understand others better and feel their pain.
13. It Will Make You a Mentor
People will look up to your positivity and happiness. People around you will ask you how you achieved it and look to you for advice.
14. Decreased Blood Pressure
Less stress and anxiety means lower blood pressure.
15. Increases Coping Capabilities
16. A Better Perspective on Life
You will approach daily activities with awe and child-like wonder, simply happy to be in the present moment.
17. You Will Learn More
When you are happier and more open, you are likely to learn from people and other sources more.
18. You Will Eat Healthier
Like exercise, increased gratefulness for your health will cause you to take better care of yourself.
19. More Assertive
Gratefulness gives you a better sense of value as a person. You will feel empowered to stand up for yourself and give your input, whether it be at work, school or in daily life.
20. You Will Be More Forgiving
One of the most freeing benefits of gratitude, feeling thankful for your everyday life will decrease the impact that negativity has on you. You will find it easier to move on and not dwell on the past.
21. You Will Use Your Time Wisely
When you are grateful, you will understand the importance of using every second of your precious life to the fullest. You won’t waste your time focusing on other people’s opinions of you or being jealous.
Gratitude opens up so many positive doors in your life. It unlocks your true potential, the most positive parts of your personality and abundant health for your mind and body. The benefits of gratitude are endless, and as you discover them your life will change in ways you never thought possible.