We all have, in our armory of emotions, one tool that can make our lives better. It can make us happier, healthier, more productive and at peace with the world. And that one simple tool is gratitude.
Psychologists have found that fostering positive attitudes, like gratitude, forgiveness and altruism, fortifies us for rocky times. In other words, practicing gratitude gives us the emotional resilience to weather even the toughest storms.
One of the leading psychologists on gratitude, Robert Emmons, believes that gratitude is so powerful because it allows us to celebrate the present. As humans, we’re constantly searching for the next best thing, but gratitude draws us back to the here and now. It forces us to count our blessings, and in doing so it encourages us to make the most of now.
As well as grounding us, gratitude also blocks toxic emotions. We all experience resentment, envy and regret at some point or another, but studies have shown that practicing gratitude can reduce the frequency and duration of these episodes. This makes perfect sense: after all, it’s difficult to consciously juggle positive and negative emotions at the same time. So something’s got to give, and in most cases it’s the negative thoughts.
The field of Positive Psychology has revealed some pretty exciting benefits that come with gratitude. From heightened empathy to lower blood pressure, they’ve identified the exact effects of thankfulness on our health. Here are just a few:
Remembering to be grateful isn’t always easy. But fortunately there are some tips and tricks to consciously introduce the power of gratitude into your life.
One of the earliest advocates of a gratitude journal was Baruch Spinoza – a 17th century rabbi who suggested that each day for a month, we ask ourselves:
Spinoza was onto something. The daily act of counting our blessings is incredibly powerful. Recent studies suggest that recording gratitude for just two weeks has lasting positive effects that can last for a further six months.
And keeping a gratitude journal is far easier than you might think. Even on the toughest days, it’s always possible to find something to be thankful for. Whether it’s our family, or the simple fact we have a roof over our head. Just keep a notebook by your bed, and scribble down your thoughts every night before going to sleep.
Gratitude meditation trains our mind to be more positive. By dedicating time to be thankful, our brains create new neural pathways and alter existing ones. Thanks to this neuroplasticity, our meditation sessions have the power to radically alter our outlook on the world.
It’s not always easy to teach children to be grateful, but these gratitude jars certainly help. Just label up a jam jar, and encourage the whole family to scribble down the things they’re grateful for. Practice it everyday, and before long it’ll be jam-packed with little notes of thankfulness. Each one a reminder of the power of gratitude.
If you enjoyed this article you may also want to view our New Year New You article featuring six tips and tricks to help you have a more mindful 2017.