Why and How to Practice Gratitude: 7 Benefits

Are you feeling defeated by life’s pressures? Struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel? Here’re 7 ways to practice gratitude that will lift your spirits. 

7 Benefits of Practicing Gratitude and Ways to Get Started

When faced with a challenge, it is hard to avoid self-pity and feeling defeated. You know things might get better, but that doesn’t stop you from feeling overwhelmed. 

Exchanging self-pity for gratitude is one thing you can do to transform your life. What is it? How to practice gratitude? And how can online therapy help in this? Find out below! 

What Is Gratitude? 

Practicing gratitude is not just saying “thank you” as a habitual response. It is affirming the good things we have received and acknowledging the role other people play in our lives. It is a highly beneficial state of mind that you can achieve with practice. 

Take note of the “thank yous” you say. 

Are they hasty afterthoughts or habitual responses? 

Are you actually grateful at that moment or a little preoccupied? 

Do you move on to your next agenda before taking in that thoughtful word or gesture you’ve received?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you need to build a capacity for gratitude. There are many benefits of doing so, as you’re about to find out. 

7 Benefits of Gratitude, According to Science

Here are 7 scientifically-proven benefits of gratitude:

New and Improved Relationships

The findings of a 2014 study indicate that expressing gratitude to a new acquaintance makes them more likely to become a new friend. Not only does it constitute good manners, but it also helps you win over new friends.

You might think that thanking someone for holding the door is an everyday occurrence, but it can be the start of a beneficial relationship. 

In a 2010 study, people who took time to express gratitude for their partners felt more positively about their relationship and were more comfortable expressing concerns. 

Improved Physical Health

The findings of a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences prove that people who practice gratitude are more health-conscious. They are physically active and get frequent medical check-ups. 

As a result, they experience fewer aches and pain and enjoy better health. 

Improved Mental Health

In a 2018 study of university students, researchers found that gratitude fostered mental well-being. Practicing gratitude reduces negative emotions, reduces depression, and increases happiness. 

Enhanced Empathy and Decreased Aggression

A 2012 study by the University of Kentucky indicates that grateful people are more likely to behave well in the face of adversity when others behave poorly. They do not take offense to negative feedback. They also show more sensitivity and empathy towards others. 

Better Sleep

Gratitude lifts one’s spirits and produces serenity during bedtime. In a 2008 study involving adults with sleep disorders, researchers found that gratitude improved the quality of sleep. Positive thoughts resulted in falling asleep easily and for a longer period of time. 

Improved Self-Esteem

The findings of a 2014 study on the effect of gratitude on athletic performance were surprising. Grateful athletes had higher self-esteem, which an essential for good performance. 

More studies reveal that grateful people do not compare themselves to others and are more satisfied with the quality of their lives. 

Increased Mental Strength

What does gratitude do to the brain? According to a 2020 study, regularly practicing gratitude eases the symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

An earlier 2003 study found that gratitude is a precursor to a better mood. It fosters positivity when done regularly. 

7 Ways to Practice Gratitude

Knowing the benefits of gratitude is one thing. Integrating the practice is another, especially when you are anxious or stressed. 

It is important to understand that practicing gratitude does not mean you never have bad days. It means that even when things are bleak, relying on this positive emotion can help you cope better. 

Here’s how to practice gratitude every day, even when you’re feeling low. 

Don’t Compare

When nothing seems to be going right, it is easy to compare yourself, who seem to be doing better. When you do that, you ignore your unique journey and fail to embrace your achievements. Know that your story is different, and that is not a bad thing. Embrace the path you’re on. 

Live in the Now

Do you dwell on the negatives of the past so much that you forget to enjoy the positives of the present? Perhaps you worry too much about the future. 

Learn to live in the moment and take in everything as it happens. You will discover joys that are often overlooked. 

Create a Gratitude Map

A gratitude map is a visual mood board of everything you’re grateful for. It is a great tool for visual learners. Practice gratitude mapping by creating a visual collection of things you are thankful for and placing it somewhere in your house. 

Keep a Gratitude Journal

Gratitude journaling is writing down things you are grateful for every day. The purpose is to reflect on the past and remember the positives. It helps you focus on the good rather than the bad. 

Below are some steps to take to create a journaling habit:

  • Dedicate a notebook to journaling
  • Use gratitude prompts to write how you feel
  • Be consistent
  • Add a behavioral component, e.g., verbally expressing gratitude to someone

Create a Gratitude Jar

Whenever something good happens, write it on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. When you are feeling down about something bad, pick and read a slip from the jar. 

This technique reminds you of simple pleasures that you might have forgotten. It helps you cope during low moments. 

Create Gratitude Affirmations

Gratitude affirmations are sayings that remind you of positive things in your life. Repeating them daily molds your mind in a way that will be more receptive to positive things. 

When you express gratitude for things in your life, there is a greater likelihood of retaining them or getting more. 

Practice Mindfulness

How to practice gratitude during COVID-19 when you feel anxious and overwhelmed? On days when you’re struggling, mindfulness can help you tune out the noise and get in touch with your inner self. 

Follow these steps to nurture thankfulness by being aware of all your senses in every moment:

  1. Breathe deeply to anchor your mind in the existing moment. Pay attention to how you feel while inhaling and slowly exhaling.
  2. Picture a memory you are grateful for. Think about something and picture it with your eyes closed. Contemplate why you appreciate what you see. 
  3. Think about a scent you’re fond of. Remember a scent that brings you comfort or one that piques your curiosity. 
  4. Pay attention to any sounds around you. Move your attention to your ears and really listen. Can you appreciate the fact that you’re able to experience sound?
  5. Explore your sense of touch. Hug someone and appreciate human contact. You can also cuddle your pet. 
  6. Focus on noticing and appreciating objects around you. Look around you and appreciate the things you own and how hard you worked for them. 
  7. Resolve to voice your appreciation to each person who does something kind for you today. 

The Bottomline

How to practice gratitude? By savoring each moment and staying positive. Even when you’re stressed or anxious, try to focus on positive things. 

If you’re struggling, start a gratitude journal, map, or box to hold you accountable. 

Online counseling on Calmerry can help when you’re having a hard time. An experienced counselor can coach you on how to practice gratitude every day. 

 

Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has been working in healthcare since 2017. She mainly treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, grief, identity, relationship, and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience is focused on individual and group counseling. Follow Kate here.

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