What is gratitude and how does it directly affect your happiness and wellbeing? Did you know that through the power of gratitude you can rewire your brain to be happier? Gratitude can improve your self-esteem, and your sleep, and improve your overall psychological health. But gratitude isn’t just being thankful for what you have in your life, it’s so much more than that. Gratitude helps us to connect to something bigger than ourselves.
What is Gratitude
The dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” But it’s so much more than just being thankful and showing your appreciation. Gratitude is not just an act of giving thanks, it is something you feel deep inside of you, something that you feel in every area of your life, and something that gives you the ability to find blessings in the worst situations. When you start to practice daily gratitude, it changes your outlook on life and improves your overall happiness and wellbeing.
So, what are some examples of gratitude? Well, some of the main things to find gratitude for include family, friends, pets, health, job, passions, and hobbies. But to sustain gratitude in your daily life you need to learn to tune into the simple pleasures, look for the things we often overlook, and simply show your gratitude with regular practice.
The difference between gratitude and appreciation is action. To appreciate something is to stop and notice its beauty, but to be fully immersed in it and feel the positive emotion of gratitude inside, you need to be in the process of recognizing its value and how it positively impacts your life. Gratitude allows you to be more aware of the present moment and enjoy the smaller things in life you wouldn’t usually pay attention to.
The science of Gratitude
So what do science and research say about gratitude? Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading scientists on gratitude says that “gratitude is a fertilizer for the mind, spreading connections and improving its function in nearly every realm of experience.” There have been years of research into gratitude and its positive effects on people’s daily lives. It has shown that it can make a big impact on many areas of our wellbeing by increasing feelings of security, strengthening relationships, and reducing stress and depression to name a few.
So, does gratitude change the structure of the brain? Research by UCLA showed that regularly expressing gratitude can change the molecular structure of your brain, keeping your gray matter functioning, which makes you a happier and healthier person. How amazing is that? When you think about what you are grateful for, the ventral and dorsal medial prefrontal cortex releases neurochemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. Over time, these hormones contribute to feelings of empowerment, connection, happiness, and security that are associated with gratitude.
How to incorporate Gratitude into your daily life
Gratitude is a mindset, a state of being, so it must be something that you do unconsciously. You may find yourself needing to think about it at first, taking a moment to pause, to be appreciative, and present and taking whatever action you choose to do to show gratitude. But after a while, it will be something that you will just do. Firstly, you have to choose gratitude, be aware of your emotions, and choose to approach life from a place of abundance and positivity. You have to practice gratitude in the same way that you do everything else, be consistent, do it every day, start your morning with a visualization or meditation, and give yourself the space and time to think about what you are grateful for.
There are other ways to include gratitude in your life. Write thank you notes to the people you love and tell them how grateful you are that they are in your life. Count your blessings, choose a day of the week and write down some of the blessings in your life. Whenever you are having a bad day, read them to ground yourself in positivity and appreciation.
Keeping a Gratitude journal
A good idea to start incorporating gratitude into your daily life is to keep a gratitude journal. Write down three things that you are grateful for when you wake up in the morning and write another three things you are grateful for just before you go to sleep. If you set this routine for yourself and stick with it, you will quickly see the amazing results and power of gratitude in your life.
Benefits of Gratitude
There are numerous benefits of practicing gratitude and appreciating the small things in life. These include improving your sleep, self-esteem, physical and psychological health and enhancing your empathy, and increasing your happiness in your relationships. Another positive way gratitude can influence your life is it allows our brains to learn new things. When we practice gratitude, we are learning that every dark cloud has a silver lining, we are seeing the opportunity in every problem, and we find solutions easier when we are happier people, so gratitude can improve your problem-solving skills.
How Gratitude improves your productivity
Does gratitude have a positive effect on your productivity? The short answer is yes. We often find ourselves reaching out externally for feelings of joy and happiness but the real gratitude starts from within, for being grateful for yourself, your life, the obstacles you have faced, and the barriers you have overcome. When we reach this stage of appreciation for ourselves and where we are at in the journey of our lives, we are more likely to be motivated to succeed. This is how gratitude can boost your productivity.
Firstly, there will be times during your studies when you find yourself in a challenging situation, if you are approaching the problem with a grateful mind, you are more likely to see growth opportunities and be self-aware of the wisdom you will gain from the experience. Secondly, when you have a fear of change or failure, you may find yourself stuck in a place of resistance, but if you practice gratitude regularly, you are giving yourself the tools to confidently go out of your comfort zone to try new things and be patient and positive when faced with adversity. Finally, you will be more productive because a study from Psychology Today revealed that practicing gratitude daily can improve your sleep, so you will wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead of you.