It was Karl Barth who once quoted that: ‘’Joy is the simplest form of gratitude’’, and he wasn’t wrong.
Numerous studies show that having gratitude leads to gratefulness and fullness of life.
Those who practise gratitude daily often have better health, a satisfaction of life and tend to be far happier in general.
What is gratitude, and where can I get some?
Gratitude is essentially an attitude.
It’s a way of looking at life that eventually leads to long-term fulfilment and higher levels of satisfaction. Practising gratitude is similar to how people practise mindfulness.
With the use of positive mantras and meditation, being present in the moment and having an appreciation for what we have rather than focusing on what we don’t have is the key to embracing life at its fullest and playing the cards we have.
Gratitude is about enjoying the things we have rather than concentrating on anything we might be lacking.
Since the human brain tends to focus on threats and any negative aspects that might be going on within our environment, gratitude can help reverse the negative chain of thoughts that lead to anxiety and depression.
Studies show that when we practise gratitude and foster emotions like contentment, joy, satisfaction and happiness, this can help our brains to unlearn any unhelpful patterns, thoughts and behaviours that often create self-destructive ways of coping.
Practising gratitude can show up as:
- Having a daily gratitude journal
- Sending a ‘thank you’ email or text to a friend, partner or colleague
- Going for a walk
- Mindfully eating meals and being grateful for every taste and sensation
- Phoning a friend
- Praying or meditating
- Sending thoughtful post-it-notes to a close neighbour
- Smiling at the shop assistant and striking a pleasant conversation
Does gratitude improve our health?
According to a study that was published by Personality and Individual Differences in 2012, having gratitude can make us healthier.
The literature shows that grateful people experience fewer pains and aches in the body and report higher levels of physical well being over those who don’t practise gratitude.
All this could be because grateful people tend to take better care of their health, attend regular check-ups and exercise more which often is associated with a greater life span and much higher levels of emotional well being.
Practising gratitude regularly can also:
- Improve psychological well being
- Help to reduce aggression and enhance empathy
- Allow people to sleep better
- Improve relationships with others
- Increase self-esteem
Gratitude is good medicine
Clinical trials shown in Emmons report illustrate that gratitude can help lower blood pressure and boost the immune system.
The article also explains that grateful people tend to smoke less and are far less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Grateful people are also more likely to have better dietary requirements and engage more in exercise.
How to practise gratitude
Studies show that there are five effective ways to practise being more grateful.
1. Nourishing your body
Feeding your body with the right nutrients is a huge aspect of feeling grateful.
Nourishing your system with three balanced meals a day whilst taking a minute to appreciate the food you eat is one surefire way to practise gratitude whilst enjoying your food!
2. Asking yourself what activity you did today that you enjoyed
Taking the time to reflect on your day by remembering the awesome stuff that you did whether that be an aerobic workout, being more patient in a long line of traffic, or simply helping out a stressed friend is a reflective way to practise gratitude.
3. Appreciating your health
Taking time-out to be thankful for your health can be a fantastic way to be more grateful.
Our bodies are fine-tuned machines that can help us to run fast when we need to and to hike up the tallest of mountains.
If that’s not a reason to be thankful, I don’t know what is!
4. Being grateful for the people in your life
Our relationships are what make up the components of our life. Our friends, partners, family and colleagues all contribute to our well being.
Being grateful for the people who show up in our lives can help to rejuvenate our relationships.
Why not send someone a ‘thank you’ note or a bunch of flowers to show them you care?
5. Valuing your time
Every single waking day, we are each gifted with another 24 hours.
No day is a guarantee to any of us and, the simple art of waking up should give us enough gratitude for the day, if not the whole year ahead!
Practise valuing the time you have and, before long, you will be a master of gratitude.
Why being grateful makes us happier
The benefits of having gratitude are synonymous with happiness. According to research, the benefits of gratitude comprises of 5 elements:
- Emotional: Being grateful helps us to feel more relaxed, resilient, less envious of others and happier in general
- Social: When we are grateful we are more social and can cultivate fulfilling relationships, be kinder, enjoy deeper connections and a wider social circle
- Career: Practicing gratitude allows us to enhance our career prospects and encourages good decision making, better management skills, improves our networking skills and promotes higher self-esteem
- Health: The benefits of practising gratitude when it comes to health are endless. Those who practise gratitude regularly are less sick, get more sleep every night, have higher energy levels, exercise more, and are generally more productive throughout the day
- Personality: When we are grateful we are more likely to be optimistic, spiritual, less materialistic and self-centred and have more confidence
Gratitude not only makes us happier, but it can also be used as a moral motive in that it encourages prosocial behaviour over societally disruptive behaviour, according to one study on The Science of Gratitude.
The same study showed that 20% of Americans thought of gratitude as being a useful and constructive emotion.
The German population, on the other hand, gave gratitude a rating of 50%.
Having a gratitude mindset can help us in nearly every aspect of our lives, and the benefits of having such a mindset are limitless.
Therefore, practising gratitude is a crucial component to enjoying good mental and physical health which, of course, makes us happier.