10 Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
It’s easy to say we’re grateful—we’re grateful for our family, for our children, for our friends, for our spouse. We’re grateful for our home, our country, our life! And we mean it too. We are grateful. We do feel blessed.
But then, life intervenes—we stop remembering that we are grateful and we stop feeling like we’re blessed. We don’t mean to—it’s just the way it is.
Beyond Feeling Grateful…
But this doesn’t have to be the “way it is”. Sure, gratitude can be a state of emotion—such as when we feel overwhelmed with love or catch a beautiful sunset—but we don’t have to, and really shouldn’t, settle for waiting around to feel grateful. After all, we don’t have to simply be at the mercy of our circumstances or emotions—we can choose to create the emotions we desire, and gratitude should be at the top of the list.
Leading gratitude researcher, Robert Emmons, has defined gratitude as “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” Research has shown that we can cultivate this “wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation of life” by practicing gratitude. In fact, the benefits of developing a gratitude practice are well-researched and numerous. We now have “scientific proof that people who practice gratitude through activities such as keeping a gratitude journal are more loving, forgiving, and optimistic about the future. They exercise more frequently, report fewer illneses, and generally feel better about their lives”.
10 Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
What can practicing gratitude do for you? For starters, how about these ten benefits.
1) Be happier. In the words of David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, “The root of joy is gratefulness…. It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” When we are good at being grateful, we see and experience more of the “good” in life, no matter life’s circumstances. We learn to appreciate the rainbows and the storms in life, and that makes us happier.
2) Be healthier: Practicing gratitude is associated with better sleep, less depression, and less stress. It reduces headaches, sore muscles, stomach pain, nausea, coughing, and sore throats. Research also shows that those who practice gratitude exercise more regularly, have better appetites, report less illness, and generally feel healthier.
3) Reduce negative emotions: Feelings like anger, bitterness, and resentment are incompatible with gratitude. Cultivate more gratitude = Feel less negativity.
4) Cope better: Learning to see the good in your life even when hard times come is a powerful coping strategy.
5) Increase self-worth: Practicing gratitude helps you get out of the “poor me” mindset and into the habit of looking for the good. It helps you see and appreciate others, and receive their love for you too. It also helps reduce negative comparisons with other people and pay more attention to what you have versus what you don’t.
6) Increase life’s meaning. When you can see all the beautiful pieces of your life, it’s a lot easier to see the greater whole. Cultivating a sense of gratitude helps life feel more meaningful; and the more gratitude you express, the more life’s meaning will increase.
7) Enjoy your work more. People who practice gratitude can find the good in anything. This helps work feel more meaningful and enjoyable, and can even help you find your life’s purpose!
8) Improve your relationships: Those who practice gratitude develop a habit of recognizing and expressing gratitude to and for others; this helps them feel more connected to others and experience better relationships. It also makes it more likely you’ll help others, feel less lonely and depressed, and more pleasant to be around.
9) Increase your spiritual connection. Filling your heart and mind with gratitude immediately lifts you from the troubles of your human body and connects you with your higher power. Expressing gratitude to God shows faith, love, and hope, and will keep you more continually connected to who you really are.
10) Improve your parenting skills. When you’re able to cope better, feel better, and find more joy and meaning in life you will be a better parent. It also helps you recognize the good in your children, express it to them, and that will improve their self-worth, health, and happiness too! Gratitude is a cycle that just keeps on giving.
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Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. Penguin Books: New York, NY.
Seligman, M. www.authentichappiness.org
Enhance Happiness & Health by Cultivating Gratitude: An Interview with Robert Emmons, http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2007/11/29/robert-emmons-on-the-positive-psychology-of-gratitude/
 Huntington, R. (2012). A Grateful Heart. www.speeches.byu.edu/