“…life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone”— John Mellencamp
As I age, I find that I’ve stopped nurturing my sense of wonder. On the surface, everything seems commonplace as I navigate work, errands, exercise and responsibilities. But I’m not present. I’m not observant. And, when it’s at its worst, I stop giving thanks for my amazing life and become snarky about not achieving what I think I should’ve by now.
At those times, if you could peek into my brain, you’d think my life stinks. But it doesn’t. It’s my frame of mind that does.
Scientists are proving that those who practice daily gratitude—an expression of appreciation for what we have rather than dwelling on what we don’t—are healthier, happier and have better relationships.
On the surface, gratitude may look like the trend of the moment, but in reality, it’s an outlook that can lift us out of our rut and help us attain our true potential.
The 7 scientifically proven benefits of practicing daily gratitude
By establishing regular habits such as writing in an appreciation journal or making regular efforts to thank others, we can grow in a positive fashion.
- Greater health
Those who practice thankfulness have stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure, according to the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Plus, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than others, per a 2012 study published in the journal, Personality and Individual Differences.
- Better sleep
A 2011 experiment monitored subjects who spent 15 minutes a night writing down everything they were thankful for. The results, published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, found that those who kept up with the nightly exercise slept longer and better than those who didn’t.
- Increased happiness
We’ll act with more compassion and invite added joy and optimism into our lives when we recognize what is going nicely for us. University of California Davis Psychology Professor Robert Emmons, a leading positive psychology scientist, found that being grateful reduces the frequency of toxic emotions—envy, resentment, frustration and regret—we experience.
- More satisfying relationships
Showing appreciation can help us forge new friendships, according to a 2104 study published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Emotion. It found that just thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship with us.
- More empathy, less aggression
Grateful people are more likely to behave positively, even when others are unkind, according to research conducted by the University of Kentucky.
- Boosted self esteem
Surprisingly, gratitude can increase an athlete’s self-esteem, which in turn, helps to optimize her performance, found the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. So, instead of being resentful toward other people’s accomplishments, those who practice gratitude regularly are more likely to be supportive.
- Heightened mental resilience
Thankfulness not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found it was a major factor fostering resilience after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Researchers believe that recognizing what’s going right in our lives—even during our most challenging times—give us strength to endure.
Personally, I’m overdue in shifting my perspective, and I’m determined to begin now. Starting today, I resolve to email or verbally express my gratitude to at least one person each day. Then, before I retire for the evening, I’m going to write down a minimum of three things about my life that I appreciate, whether it is a stunning sunrise, the kindness of a stranger, Ken’s laughter or the unconditional love of an animal.
If you’ve been struggling like me, join me.
Happy Thanksgiving! I know you are busy and I appreciate you taking the time to read my posts.