At least once a year in November, we celebrate what we are thankful for in our lives. Why are gratitude and appreciation important, and should we be doing it more than once or twice a year?
What is Gratitude?
According to the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, Robert Emmons, there are two key components. “First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good thing in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. …The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves.”(1)
What Are The Benefits of Being Grateful?
There are 7 scientifically proven benefits of gratitude and appreciation(2):
- “Opens the door to more relationships” – many times, saying “thank you” can lead to new opportunities. Saying “thank you” to others shows you appreciate them.
- “Improves physical health” – according to a 2012 study, people who are thankful take better care of their health. They also have fewer aches and pains.
- “Enhances empathy and reduces aggression” – according to a University of Kentucky study, grateful people are less likely to retaliate and show more empathy towards people.
- “Grateful people sleep better” – a 2011 study about gratitude journals found people who wrote grateful statements before bed slept better and longer.
- “Improves self-esteem” – appreciation of other’s accomplishments is an essential aspect of peak and better job performance.
- “Increases mental strength” – many studies over the years prove that being thankful and showing gratitude makes the person more resilient. The person is quicker to overcome trauma and have lower stress levels.
Many of these same benefits are listed in a Times article, “7 Surprising Health Benefits of Gratitude”. For a larger list of benefits, visit “The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life” by Amit Amin on Happier Human.
Ways to Explore Appreciation
Here are some suggestions to cultivate gratitude(3):
- Keep a grateful journal – every night before going to bed, write down a couple of sentences about one or two things you’re grateful for today.
- Write a thank-you note – thank a person for something they do, which improves your life and send it to them or give it to them personally. You may consider writing a thank you note to yourself.
- Mediate – as you clear your mind, focus on something you are grateful for like the warmth of the sun, your pet(s), a favorite food, etc.
- Pray – say prayers of gratitude, thanking the divine for people and things you have in your life that bring you happiness.
- Say thank you to someone – tell a person “thank you” even if it is a stranger who held the door open for you.
Like any new habit, taking time to be grateful every day will not come easy at first. The benefits not seen right away. However, the more you do it, the easier it will become, and the more you will see the benefits it has on your life.
1. “Why Gratitude Is Good”, by Robert Emmons, Greater Good Magazine
2. “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude” by Amy Morin, Psychology Today
3. “In Praise of Gratitude” from Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School