Gratitude as a healthy practice
Being grateful can improve physical well-being, psychological well-being, and help you sleep better. Doesn’t this sound too easy? After all, how hard is it to be grateful? Or, is this too good to be true?
But in reality, study after study gives scientific proof to these very benefits of gratitude. Now the psychological factors seem fairly reasonable. If one is grateful it stands to reason one is seemingly happy or at least content. But take that a step further into the realm of self-esteem. The Journal of Applied Sports Psychology offered a paper in 2014 that showed athletes who expressed greater gratitude had higher self-esteem than athletes who did not express gratitude so openly.
Empathy also improved for those more grateful, as evidenced by yet another study that also showed lower aggression for those motivated by gratitude (Social Psychology and Personality Science). And hope is another positive byproduct, largely because gratitude offsets negative emotions.
Gratitude not only reduces stress but also increases mental strength. One study that offers great hope for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder examined Vietnam War veterans (Behavior Research and Therapy). Those who expressed higher levels of gratitude were not only less impacted by PTSD but also had more resilience.
Reducing aches and pains through gratitude has been held up in a number of studies as well. Of course this may be because grateful people are more tuned in to their spirits and bodies and thus, take better care of themselves. But if gratitude can lessen pain, it’s worth a try, right?
So how do we best express gratitude so that it becomes a natural part of our lives? Try a daily practice that solely focuses on being grateful. It may be as simple as appreciating one’s environment – taking a morning stop at the back door, breathing in the fresh air, and expressing gratitude for something in your life. Keeping a daily gratitude journal is one way to keep people on track with a greater sense of well-being. In fact, that caveat of sleeping better? Studies have shown that spending just 15 minutes before bedtime to write down what one is grateful for may enhance and improve sleep patterns and how long one sleeps.
Writing down what we are grateful for each day either at the beginning or end of the day is a great practice and healthy habit to adopt. A treasured suggestion discovered early last year was to write down something you’re grateful for each day on a slip of paper and put it in a jar. At the end of the month, or quarter, or perhaps year, empty the jar and read all the slips of paper. See all the pieces of gratitude you have in your life. Consider the value that such a simple practice has on your well-being.