The Importance of Gratitude

Being grateful for all that we have in life is one of the keys to true happiness. By recognising all of the wonderful things we have to be appreciative for, rather than dwelling on the negative, often those ‘not so wonderful’ things don’t seem so bad after all. Recent studies have found that counting your blessings on a regular basis not only leads to feeling more optimistic and enjoying a greater overall satisfaction with life, it can also have some pretty amazing physical and emotional benefits.

What is gratitude?

Being grateful doesn’t imply you’ve got your rose-coloured glasses permanently on. Nor does it mean that everything is necessarily wonderful, it simply indicates that you’re aware of your blessings, appreciate the small things and acknowledge all that you do have. Being grateful shifts the lens from what is lacking or not ideal to what is already present and good.  A lot of the time we tend to take for granted everything that’s actually great in our lives and instead dwell on what we perceive is wrong, what we don’t have or what we don’t like.

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognising and appreciating what we do have.” Frederick Keonig

The benefits of being grateful

Studies have shown that being grateful can increase happiness levels by up to 25%1. The practice of being grateful, not just for a day, but as an established habit, has been linked with numerous physical and emotional benefits and as such, has been shown to improve overall quality of life. Here are just some of the benefits:

  • Improves overall physical health2,4
  • Improves mental health2
  • Improves relationships and social interactions3
  • Stronger immune system1
  • Improves quality of sleep2,4
  • Enhances empathy and reduces aggression2
  • Increases self esteem2
  • Lower levels of depression1
  • Increases resilience, better able to cope with stress1
  • Improves mental alertness1
  • Higher levels of physical activity1
  • More likely to make healthier choices – less likely to smoke, eat poorly5
  • Less self-centred and materialistic3

A recent study split several hundred people into groups and all of the participants were asked to keep a daily diary, writing down unpleasant experiences in one group, pleasant in the next, and neither good nor bad specifically in the third group. The results indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher levels of energy, optimism, determination, enthusiasm, and alertness. In addition, those in the grateful group experienced less reported levels of depression and stress, exercised more regularly, made greater progress toward achieving personal goals and were more likely to help others in need.

Furthermore, research shows that those who practice gratitude are more creative, bounce back more quickly from adversity, and have stronger social relationships than those who don’t practice gratitude. 1

Ways to incorporate gratitude into your life

Incorporating more gratitude into your daily life is simple and one of the most accessible tools for improving your quality of life. Here are a few ideas to get you started on your gratitude journey.

  • Keep a gratitude journal

You’ve probably heard of keeping a gratitude journal and it’s really as simple as just jotting down a few things at the same time each day so that you establish a routine. It may seem a little strange at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it doesn’t take much thought or effort to reflect on the positives. What you’re effectively doing is training your brain to look for the positives and to start or finish your day with feelings of thanks and gratitude, rather than dwelling on the negatives.

  • Practice an ‘attitude of gratitude’

Maintaining a positive attitude takes practice and persistence. When something bad happens, it’s easy to revert to old negative patterns and internal language – “I knew something bad was going to happen”. “Why do things like this always happen to me?” You have to make a conscious effort to retrain your thinking, and when something does happen that’s not ideal, instead of focusing on the obvious negatives, find something to the thankful for. For example, if you’re driving to work and you get a flat tyre, instead of getting upset try putting a positive spin on things – “Oh well. I’m thankful that it was just a flat tyre and not something more serious – easy fixed”. And you’re moving on with your day instead of making it into a major issue. When faced with a challenging situation ask yourself: “What can I learn from this?”, “What’s good about this?” or “How can I benefit from this?”

  • Reach out

Have a think about a time when someone did something really special for you or supported you when you really needed it and you didn’t take the time to properly thank them. Take a moment to write them a note or give them a call and convey how appreciative you were. This will not only make the person receiving the thanks feel great, but you will also feel the benefits for expressing your appreciation.

  • Meal time thanks

Start a meal time tradition with your family of talking about what you were grateful for today. It could be as simple as – “I was thankful that it didn’t rain today because it was our sports day”. Once you establish a routine it will be easy to continue. Leading by example and encouraging children to be thankful from an early age will mean that they too will reap the benefits of being grateful, and set them up to be happier adults long into the future.


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