With the global challenges we currently face, it is more important than ever for us to look after ourselves and support our health and vitality.
One of the best ways to do this is through gratitude. Counting our blessings is a simple yet powerful practice that is proven to boost our physical and psychological wellbeing.
Practicing gratitude is both empowering and heart-opening. It naturally orients us towards the positive, encouraging us to focus on what we have, rather than what we lack. This lifts the spirits and can help to motivate us when we are feeling negative or overwhelmed. As a result, gratitude helps us to be healthier, more joyful and more satisfied with our lives.
Most importantly, gratitude is based on cultivating an appreciative state of mind, rather than depending on perfect circumstances to make us feel good. In this way, it promotes a sustainable form of happiness that can provide us with comfort even during difficult times.
Below are some of the many ways in which gratitude can transform our lives:
Researchers have found that feeling gratitude activates areas of our brains related to moral cognition and positive emotion. It is also associated with greater life satisfaction and more optimism. Over time, practicing gratitude can actually rewire our neural circuitry, making us more disposed to appreciate the positive aspects of life.
Better physical health
Studies show that people who practice gratitude exercise more regularly and report fewer physical symptoms. Regular gratitude practice has been found to create a significant decrease in blood pressure in patients with hypertension, promoting better overall health. And people who feel grateful have also been shown to enjoy a higher quality of sleep and sleep for longer, as well as functioning better during the daytime.
Improved mental wellbeing
A regular gratitude practice can contribute significantly to our psychological wellness. Studies show it can have a positive impact on self-esteem and depression as well as on stress. It also increases our mental resilience when dealing with adversity and trauma, buffering against negative effects and boosting our ability to cope.
Closer romantic relationships
Expressing gratitude in our intimate relationships has been shown to create more positive perceptions of our partners. It is also linked to greater comfort voicing concerns within relationships, promoting healthier communication. Studies show that grateful couples experience greater satisfaction in their relationships and feel closer and more connected to each other.
Stronger social bonds
Gratitude also helps us to form, strengthen and maintain positive relationships in our wider social circle. It encourages us to feel invested in friendships, to value others more highly and to create mutually co-operative relationships. By promoting pro-social behaviour and fostering trust and harmony, it leads to greater cohesion and stronger social networks.
How to cultivate gratitude
The more consistently we practice gratitude, the greater the benefits. Over time, the practice becomes more ingrained, allowing us to naturally focus on the positive and reap the rewards.
One of the best ways to practice is to write a gratitude journal:
- Each evening, note down the things you are thankful for from that day. These could be a person, a situation or an experience – no matter how big or small.
- As you write down each one, pause for a moment and become aware of the physical and emotional sensations that accompany the sense of gratitude. Breathe deeply and allow these sensations to fill your whole being.
- From time to time, look back over what is written in your gratitude lists. Can you integrate more of these things into your life on a regular basis?
- The next time that you encounter any of the things on your list, try to be conscious of them as they are happening in the present moment. If you feel gratitude for a particular person or people, you could also express this to them, helping to spread the happiness and create a positive feedback loop.