Giving thanks: the proven benefits of gratitude

Giving thanks: the proven benefits of gratitude​

When did you last stop to really acknowledge the things in your life that you are grateful for? There are endless reasons why you should make gratitude and positivity a regular practice in your life. Taking the time out to stop and appreciate all that you have, little as it may be, and what you have achieved is more important than you think.

Perhaps you may have learned from your mistakes, losses, and heartbreaks; being grateful for all these things can enhance everything about you. Self-acknowledgement, as well as self-appreciation, can give you much-needed insights that can help you move forward towards greater accomplishments and a really great life. In truth, gratitude and positivity have real, proven mental and physical health benefits.

So why is it so hard to develop gratitude and positivity?
Does it feel like so many people around you seem to be tired and busy or chasing wealth, yearning for the newest and the best? It sometimes feels as though we are stuck on the treadmill called life, without any possibility of getting off. But that’s too easy to talk about! Let’s change the record and talk about developing an ‘attitude of gratitude’; the funny thing is that when you think about it, it’s probably easier than you realise.

Happiness is actually a lot easier to achieve when we focus on gratitude. The definition often quoted that ‘happiness is not about getting what you want, it’s about loving what you have’ is absolutely focused on having an attitude of gratitude. Easier said than done right? But try and think of it this way; when you only focus on the things that you don’t have, rather than that which you do have, you tend to zoom in on all your problems, which probably makes them much bigger than they should be.

A clever guy called Professor Cooperrider also said once that ‘we grow in the direction to which we enquire’, so focusing on the positive elements of what we do have (healthy children, kind partner, steady income, physical health, good friends, a sunny day, petrol in the tank...) is a really important daily habit.

When we spend time consciously reflecting on the positives in our life, we value them more. To really embed your thoughts and turn it into a new way of being, try writing three positive things down in your journal every day. Don’t take the simple good things for granted: cherish them as they can bring you a real happiness.

There are some great benefits to practicing gratitude and deep positivity which include:

Enhanced mental health
Research has proven that people who are grateful are generally happier because of their more positive outlook on life. Gratitude reduces access to toxic emotions, which can range from envy and resentment to regret and distrust. Effectively, gratitude increases your levels of happiness and lessens exposure to anxiety and depression.

Improved physical health
Recent research has also shown that people who have a positive outlook and operate with a grateful mindset seem to experience fewer aches and pains compared to people who are prone to negativity. Not surprisingly, happier people were seen to be more capable of taking better care of themselves, exercising more, taking proactive care of mind and body, which helps to improve their overall quality of life.

It reduces aggression
Those who practice mindful gratitude are generally more compassionate and considerate or forgiving, owing to their higher levels of contentedness. If you are happier and more grateful, you are also less likely to react negatively in difficult and challenging situations; with practice, life actually becomes easier and all the more enjoyable.

Better sleep
Sleep research has also recently shown that positive people who practice gratitude often sleep better. Is this because their minds are less burdened or their focus is on appreciating everything that is going right in their life, rather than focusing on all that is going wrong?

One way to achieve this life change is having a ‘before sleep habit’ - jot down three things in your journal that you are grateful for that day and every day. Like any habit, it takes time before you see the real benefits of change but this one is a no-brainer – focus on the positives and being grateful and you will attract happiness and a much-improved view of your life. Go on, I dare you, just try it!

Sally is the Founder of LifeBuddy. She is an Organisational Development consultant and is a Practitioner with the Association for Business Psychology.