“Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art.” –Joanna Macy
Put in more straightforward terms, gratitude is both an emotion and a physical practice. The concept seems easy enough in theory; just be more thankful for what’s around you, and let it show. However, applying an all-encompassing sense of gratefulness towards your life as a whole is often a far more challenging ordeal than it at first may seem.
That’s because gratitude is also a personality trait, and some of us are born with a more natural inclination toward it than others. If a general sense of thankfulness does not come easily to you, the good news is that it’s possible to “reprogram” your brain to place more weight on the positives in your life than the negatives.
By doing so, doors of opportunity can be opened that you might have never even noticed before. You may also find that gratitude can become your most trusted ally in the moments when life seems grim, and it can even persist when things feel downright hopeless.
Of course, we could discuss the more “intangible” benefits of gratitude in an article all to itself, but for now, we’ll be focusing on eight of the most exciting (and clinically-proven) ways that gratitude can improve your day-to-day existence. After reading through them, you may have all the motivation you need to start living every day as though it were a gift.
Eight Ways Gratitude Can Improve Your Life
1. Gratitude Increases Your Mental Resilience
This is an easy starting point to illustrate just how powerful an air of gratitude can be; Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., who is perhaps the world’s foremost researcher on gratitude, has conducted many studies that have shown clearly how being thankful can reduce a wide array of negative emotions like frustration, envy, jealousy, and even regret.
These types of toxic emotional responses can easily destroy our happiness at a foundational level if we let them, so using gratitude as a tool to combat this is likely as effective as anything else out there.
2. Gratitude Can Lead to New Relationships
This is one of the more exciting facets of showing appreciation for others; doing so on a constant basis actually opens the doorway to new and rewarding friendships, according to a study published in Emotion. The study discovered that even something as simple as thanking a new acquaintance makes a new relationship more likely to blossom.
Armed with this knowledge, you can quickly see how potentially game-changing this would be, as many of us see and interact with new people each and every day. Just think of all of those potential relationships waiting to happen. And once you’ve formed them, you’ll have another benefit to look forward to – friends make each other happy when times are tough.
3. Gratitude Improves Your Physical Health
A 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences found that those who wore gratefulness on their sleeves reported fewer overall issues in self-assessed physical health evaluations.
Also of note is that grateful individuals tend to naturally care more about the ongoing status of their health, going for a check-up with the doctor more often and putting more effort into things like eating properly and exercising on a regular basis. All of these can contribute to our longevity, and gratitude can affect each of them.
4. Gratitude Helps You Sleep Better
This one is likely to excite many of our readers who fall into the massive category of Americans who don’t get enough sleep at night; writing down a few simple things that you are grateful for before bed each night can actually help you fall asleep, while also increasing the quality of your slumber.
A 2011 clinical study revealed these surprising results, showing that the simple task of acknowledging things they were thankful for helped university students to quiet their minds before bed, easing them into a better night of rest overall.
See Also: 9 Simple Ways to Improve Your Sleep
5. Gratitude Makes You Feel Better About Yourself
If you’ve ever felt a bit jealous or resentful over someone else’s success, you aren’t alone (and we aren’t judging). However, this is a textbook way to reduce your own sense of self-worth, and new research increasingly shows that those who live their lives with an abundance of gratitude tend to be able to appreciate, and even celebrate, the achievements of others.
In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, it was found that a dose of gratitude actually helped athletes improve their self-esteem, which has been noted to be crucial for performing your best in just about any situation.
6. Gratitude Makes You a Less Aggressive Person
Those who are more grateful tend to exhibit other prosocial benefits and show fewer signs of negative attributes like aggression, according to a study carried out by the University of Kentucky.
In the study, participants who scored higher on empathy tests were found to be less likely to lash out at others, even when presented with negative experiences and individuals. They also expressed a more acute level of sensitivity towards others in general and were unlikely to seek out personal revenge in a variety of situations.
7. Gratitude Helps You Build Your Career
Multiple different studies have explored gratitude’s effect on our career goals, and the results aren’t too surprising; in one particular study, those who kept a gratitude journal reported more progress on a professional goal within a two-month span than those who did not keep a journal at all.
Another trial illustrated that an attitude of gratitude helps us make better long-term, strategic decisions in our lives, allowing us to build more impactful career paths in the process. So, the next time you’re feeling a bit “stuck” in your current job, remember that a bit of thankfulness may be all you need to reframe your problem into an opportunity for growth.
8. Gratitude Makes You a Happier Person
We’ve saved the best (and most obvious) one for last. All of the benefits listed above can be attributed to making you a happier, healthier person overall, but it turns out that there is a real clinical connection between gratitude and our subjective feelings of happiness.
One study showed that keeping a gratitude journal could help to improve a long-term sense of well-being, and many others have uncovered additional ways that keeping a general vibe of thankfulness around in our lives can make us happier human beings.
How to Show More Gratitude to Others
Here are some specific examples of how you can radiate gratitude toward others to begin experiencing some of the benefits described above.
Being a truly active listener takes more effort than you might think, but by doing so, you’ll notice an immediate improvement in virtually all of your relationships. It sends a clear message to those closest to you that you are engaged in the things that they care about, likely leading to a greater sense of connection that goes both ways.
Make Eye Contact
Going hand-in-hand with the last tip, the simple act of maintaining eye contact when in conversation can help others feel as though you value their time, as well as them as an individual.
Rise Above When Negatively Challenged
We have all been in situations where someone is negatively interacting with us. How you respond to these circumstances, however, will largely dictate the outcome of the interaction as a whole. Responding to negativity with graciousness will always ensure that you come out on top in any scenario.
Seek Out What Someone Is Passionate About and Highlight It
This is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal to use when forming connections with others. We all have something we are passionate about, and there’s nothing better than doing so in the company of a genuinely interested companion.
By zeroing in on these core interests, we are showing those we care most about that they are truly valued, and in doing so, we encourage them to be more open and honest with their passions in the future.
Gratitude: The Key to a Happier Existence
When viewed together, it truly is incredible to see the full scope of how gratitude can affect our lives. By living more intentionality, and giving more thanks to the people, circumstances, and experiences that make us happiest, we can optimize our minds, allowing us to reach new heights along the journey.