What Is Gratitude?
Put simply, gratitude means to be thankful and appreciative. In relation to mental health, it also means to view things with an appreciation of what you have, rather than focusing on what you do not have. This is also known as an abundance mindset.
The Link Between Gratitude And Mental Health
Psychologists Dr. Robert A Emmons and Dr. Michael E McCullough conducted a study on the link between gratitude and better mental health. The findings were interesting.
The study consisted of 3 groups – 1 group were to write daily about things that happened that they were grateful for. 1 group were to write daily about things they were unhappy about from that day. The 3rd group were to just write about things that affected them, whether positive or negative.
After 10 weeks of doing this, it was shown that the group who wrote about things they were grateful for felt better mentally and had a more optimistic outlook than those in the other 2 groups. They also ended up in better physical health and exercised more than the other groups by the end of the study.
There have been several other similar studies on the link between mental health and gratitude, and all have had similar findings – they show that being thankful or grateful each day does improve mental health.
11 Benefits Of Gratitude
- Make new friends. Being thankful towards someone will increase the likelihood that they will want to have an ongoing relationship with you, as it is a positive experience.
- Make you calmer. Being grateful also brings out your empathy, so you will find yourself less reactive to potentially triggering situations and more understanding of the possible causes of them.
- Improve self-esteem. It’s far less likely that you will compare yourself to others as you will be grateful for what you have and who you are. You will also see that your own mental resources are far better than what you previously thought.
- Strengthens your resilience. Gratitude and the positivity it brings will improve your ability to get through adverse situations.
- Improved physical health. Gratitude will lead to better overall mental health, and being in that mindset will help to take steps to improve your physical health
- Gratitude reduces stress. Being more grateful will help the body to release more DHEA which reduces cortisol levels which in turn reduce stress.
- Improved sleep. A study showed that spending a short time writing each night about what you are grateful for had a positive impact on sleep.
- Improved romantic relationships. Telling our partner what we are grateful for about them is a sure fire way to improve your relationship.
- Improved friendships. Similar to improved romantic relationships and make new friends, being grateful will make you someone that others want to be around. It will also foster an environment of being able to talk about our problems and get and give support to our friends.
- Greater happiness. There have been many studies now showing that gratitude does improve happiness and helps to reduce the symptoms of depression, making us even happier.
11.Better work performance. If you are a manager at work, showing gratitude to your employees can improve your ability to motivate them to greater performance. In fact, one study at the University of Pennsylvania separated fund raisers into 2 groups. One group received gratitude from their manager at the start of their shift and the other group did not. Results show that the group who received gratitude made 50% more fund raising calls than the group who did not.
How To Be More Grateful
There are many steps you can take immediately to be more grateful and receive the health benefits of gratitude. Here are some tips on ways to be more grateful.
- Surround yourself with reasons to be grateful, such as a photo of a loved one or a photo of a vacation you went on and enjoyed. Try to make it something that you have actually experienced rather than a photo of a dream destination, because we want to focus on what we have rather than what we do not have.
- Keep a gratitude journal. As has been mentioned previously in this post and on this website, writing down each day the things you are grateful for will go a long way to improving your mental health, increasing your positivity and relieving the symptoms of depression.
- Keep a mental journal. If writing daily is too much, then set aside some time each day to make a mental note of the things you are grateful for from that day. For myself and my children, we do this at the dinner table every evening. We go around the table and take turns to mention two things we are grateful for each day. You don’t need to be struggling with your mental health to reap the benefits of doing this.
- Meditation. Being mindful while you meditate means being in the present moment, where you can be grateful for the things that you are sensing right now. This can include certain smells, feeling the breeze on your skin and so on.
- Write a thank you note. You don’t even have to send it. Just taking the time to write down why you are grateful for someone’s presence in your life will help you to be more grateful overall.
- Commit. Commit to working each day on doing something to improve your gratitude will mean gratitude will come easier to you in the long run and you will feel it more naturally.
- Find the best in every situation. No matter what happens, ask yourself what is the benefit and keep going until you find at least one benefit.
- Remember the bad times. Sometimes we just need to take a moment to realize how far we have come. Even when things seem bleak right now, we can always look back to our struggles that we got through to remind us that things are better now.
- Volunteer. Giving back to others is a great way to help us to be more grateful for the things we take for granted. It will also help you to feel better about yourself by doing something good for your community. Focusing on others is a good way to bring up feelings of gratitude instead of focusing on our own issues and problems.
- Don’t react. Next time you are about to lose your temper or react angrily to someone or something, take a moment to quickly go through 3 things you are grateful for right now. Hopefully that calms you enough and puts your mind in a better place so you don’t say or do something that you may regret later.