As we approach the holiday season, you’ll hear a lot of talk about being grateful and showing gratitude for those around you — but why only focus on gratitude during the holidays? Gratitude has been shown to not only positively impact your mental health, but your physical health as well, and practicing gratitude is an easy lifestyle change to make.
“It’s a funny thing about life, once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.”
— Germany Kent
If you aren’t completely sold on the importance of gratitude, consider the positive impacts you can expect to see throughout the year. While expressing gratitude might appear to be mundane, doing so is good for your physical, mental, and social health.
Keep reading for five simple, yet impactful ways to practice gratitude throughout your daily life.
Physical Benefits of Gratitude
According to a report from UC Berkeley, individuals who regularly practice gratitude report fewer health issues such as sleep disturbances, respiratory infections, and gastrointestinal problems. Other studies referenced in the report showed that grateful individuals experience higher-quality sleep, lower blood pressure, and improved heart rate variability.
Mental Benefits of Gratitude
Of course, you might just assume that individuals who express gratitude are naturally more positive and have an optimistic outlook, but there are a few other mental health benefits that come with being grateful that might just surprise you.
According to Psychology Today, grateful individuals have higher self-esteem. The study also found that veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of PTSD and that grateful individuals were much more likely to show mental resilience following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Additionally, a University of Southern California study found that grateful individuals are less likely to be depressed and/or stressed.
Social Benefits of Gratitude
The USC study reports that the mental health benefits related to gratitude also come with their own social benefits. One researcher noted, “People who are grateful get less triggered or angry, they have more positive feelings, and in some ways, that attracts other people. When you feel these positive emotions and relish good experiences with others, there’s a bonding in that, and it tends to build stronger relationships.”
The USC researchers weren’t the only ones to note the social benefits of gratitude. Psychology Today cited studies that found that expressing gratitude to a new acquaintance makes them more likely to pursue a longer relationship with you. Additionally, grateful individuals are more likely to be “pro-social” and have more empathy and less aggression toward others.
That improved self-esteem Psychology Today mentions as a mental health benefit also plays into the social benefits of gratitude; the same study found that those who are grateful are less likely to compare themselves against others in their social groups.
Additionally, if you’re in a leadership position, there are even more benefits to expressing gratitude. One Harvard Health Publishing report notes, “Managers who remember to say ‘thank you’ to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder.”
How to Cultivate Gratitude
So, how can you cultivate a lifestyle of gratitude, not only for the holiday season but all year long? There are numerous impactful ways, and most are simple and easy to implement.
1. Voice Your Gratitude
It’s a common practice for families to share what they’re thankful for during the Thanksgiving meal, but why not continue voicing your gratitude every day? Make it a regular part of your family dinners to all say one thing that you’re thankful for, either in general or that specifically relates to the day’s events. You can even implement this type of vocal gratitude practice in your workplace. During our Arootah team meetings, for example, we all share something we’re grateful for to start the day. Try this exercise at your next team meeting!
2. Recognize the Little Things
While you are probably grateful for the big things — family, careers, a roof over your head — it’s important to appreciate the little things in life, too. Take time out of your day to think about the small, everyday things that make life a little happier. Write these things down in a daily gratitude journal or a notebook. Maybe it’s a particularly good workout, a productive meeting with your life coach, or an amazing dinner cooked by your partner. Whatever it is, be thankful for the small, joyful things that make your life what it is.
3. Watch Your Words
In addition to vocalizing your positive thoughts, it’s also important to reduce your negative words. Try not to complain at all for an entire day. You may not think of yourself as much of a complainer, but it might surprise you to realize how much you actually do complain during the day! Becoming aware of this is the first step. Once you succeed in not complaining for a whole day, challenge yourself further by not complaining at all for two days and then for a whole week. Turn this into a new habit and be consistent with it. Over time, it will become easier, and you won’t be complaining much at all.
4. Put Your Gratitude into Action
Think of one thing you’re thankful for. Now, how can you channel your gratitude for that thing into doing some good for the rest of the world? Volunteering doesn’t always mean going to the food pantry or soup kitchen (though those are definitely worthy causes)!
Maybe you’re thankful for your career, so you volunteer your time to tutor or provide mentorship for underprivileged communities. Perhaps you’re grateful for another year with older relatives, so you volunteer your time at a senior center or related organization. Whatever it is, giving back and helping others is always an impactful way to show gratitude.
5. Show Your Appreciation for Those Around You
In addition to volunteering and giving back to the community, make sure to show gratitude for your friends and family — and do it without expecting recognition or anything in return. This could mean cleaning up your spouse’s mess while they’re busy (and not mentioning it) or dropping by a friend’s house with a treat from a local bakery. Maybe it’s sending a card to a loved one who lives far away. Whatever it is, show the important people in your life just how much you appreciate them.
The Bottom Line
While expressing gratitude might seem mundane, doing so is good for your health on all levels. With the holiday season rolling around, take this time to prioritize gratitude and make it an important part of your life for the entire year. Don’t let your gratitude fall by the wayside once January rolls around. Keep the grateful mindset going all year, for better health, a better mindset, and better relationships.
If you’re still struggling to find gratitude in your life, try working with one of our life coaches. They can help you see the brighter side of life and carve a path forward for you to experience more joy and live your happiest, most fulfilling life.
What are you continuously grateful for in your life? Let us know in the comments below!