The Benefits of Being Grateful

By Psychologist Paula Lorimer

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It’s a time to spend with loved ones, to enjoy a great meal together, and to give thanks for the abundance in our lives. We celebrate one day a year to give thanks. What about the rest of the year – how important is gratitude in our lives? Gratitude means to be grateful or thankful for what you currently have in your life. Not for what you wish you had or are lacking. It’s a present experience of acknowledging and giving thanks for the things, people, and circumstances already in your life. It turns out gratitude is important for overall health and well-being. According to new research being done gratitude is important in our day-to-day lives and it’s a practice that leads to healthier and more rich and fulfilling lives. Dr. Robert Emmons has been studying gratitude and has found that a daily practice of thinking about and being grateful for the things in your current life have these benefits:

Physical

  • Stronger immune system
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Take better care of your health
  • Better sleep

Grateful people tend to be more optimistic, which has a positive health impact on those with health issues. In separate studies patients with AIDS and those preparing for surgery had better health outcomes when they were optimistic.

Emotional

  • Experience of positive emotions
  • More optimism and happiness
  • Helps manage stress
  • Helps cope with loss
  • Higher self-worth

Grateful people are more stress resistant. Stress makes us sick. Reducing stress makes us healthier. A number of studies show that in the face of serious trauma or adversity, people with a grateful disposition recover more quickly. Gratitude, in its nature, blocks negative emotions such as resentment, regret, guilt, and sadness. All of which erode our sense of happiness. A 2008 study by psychologist Alex Wood in the Journal of Research in Personality, showed that gratitude could reduce depression symptoms.

Social

  • More outgoing
  • Feel less lonely and isolated
  • Better able to ask for and receive support

There are many benefits to being grateful everyday. And it’s free. You don’t need any program or a specialist, just a little time everyday to focus on and give thanks in your life. What are you grateful for? Anything in your life such as your partner, your job, getting a paycheck, your children, traits of yourself, your home, family etc. That’s not to say your life has to be perfect, that you never have conflict or worries. It doesn’t mean you always in a good mood or that inconvenient things don’t happen. Being grateful means you focus on positive things in your life. It means you pay attention to things of value and less attention to negativity. Take Note Write down 5 things every week you are grateful for. It gets easier with practice. Writing it down keeps you focused on gratitude. Keep note of things are you taking for granted in your life and instead celebrate them. Attitude of Gratitude Develop an attitude of gratitude in your daily life. Instead of focusing on all the things that don’t work in your day or life look for things to be grateful for. What does work in your life? What qualities do you possess that can improve things? Practice, Practice, Practice The old saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’ is an unrealistic goal. I prefer ‘Practice makes Habit’. The more you do something the better you get at it. It takes conscious effort to change a mindset. And it gets easier each time. Practice gratitude for improved health and well-being.

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