You can have the job you were aiming for and the apartment with the beautiful sunset view, but life can still feel like there is something… missing. Like there is something more, and you are close to finding it.
You keep searching and searching, but have you ever stopped to look back at all that you have? It turns out, that the material things in life are not what bring long-lived happiness, but expressing gratitude and learning how to truly appreciate your life can.
Now, do I mean you should stop and settle for what you have now? Oh heck no! Reach for the stars. Go for it. Make it happen. But while you are on your journey to all that you can be, growing your purpose, you must learn how to enjoy life… always. Because once you reach where you want to be, it will mean nothing without having appreciated what got you there.
Gratitude is so much more than always saying thank you. It is choosing to see the brighter side, counting your blessings, and appreciating life.
Gratitude promotes optimism and satisfaction with life.
Benefits of Expressing Gratitude
People who express gratitude have been shown to be significantly happier, more upbeat, energetic, and positive about the future. They also display a greater amount of positive emotions.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, those who expressed gratitude reported being less depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, and neurotic.
The simple acts of gratitude are not only a promoter of positivity but also a shield against negativity and harm. Those who are consistently grateful are more likely to help others, show empathy, more spiritual and religious, and less likely to care about the material things. There was even a study (found in this book) which showed that the act of expressing gratitude had a positive effect on their physical health.
This has been tested on children, adults, the terminally ill, and ALL have produced similar results which means that if you are consistent, this can help you too!
Why It Works
Researchers have explained the reasons behind why and how the simple act of expressing gratitude works. It isn’t complicated, and it is definitely not rocket science, but there are proven effects if practiced consistently.
Promotes savoring positive life experiences
As you are thinking about what you have to be grateful for, you are recalling joyful times in your life. The little movie reel in your head is showing a happy picture, and it’s hard not to feel great about it.
Low self-esteem is exacerbated when you think you are unworthy or incapable. By showing gratitude, you are reminded of people in your life who value you, and what your accomplishments are. It’s hard to talk down about yourself when you have so much to be grateful for.
Helps with coping with stress and trauma
Staying grateful through difficult situations will encourage a positive outlook and better coping strategies. Yes, at the time it may seem like the world is falling apart, but reminding yourself that there are many other things in life to be grateful for, to live for, can bring this bad event into a different perspective. It can be calming. The ability to comfort yourself is extremely important for good mental health.
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Encourages moral behavior
Gratitude encourages moral behavior because those who are more grateful are more inclined to help others and show empathy. They are less concerned with gaining material items, and care more about the people they are around.
Builds better relationships
If you ever took Psych 101, you will have heard that we are social beings who have evolved and survived through the interaction with others. Keeping reminders of our gratitude, like a journal, can make us feel more connected with others. It can also create better relationships with the important people in our life because of a stronger bond.
Repels the comparison of others
Being grateful for what is already in your life can produce feelings of satisfaction. When you are satisfied with the way things are, or even how our life is going, there is no need to look over the fence and compare the color of grass.
Deters negative emotions
Gratitude is an emotion quite opposite of anger or envy. It is hard to be both at once, and by showing yourself what there is to be grateful for can help to deter those negative feelings that can creep into your mind.
Thwarts hedonic adaptation
One of the main reasons people have to purposefully choose to express gratitude is because they adapt to their circumstances. They have a period of happiness and joy, but then they become used to this and seek more of that feeling from somewhere else. Expressing gratitude can prevent you from taking positive events in your life for granted.
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Ways to Express Gratitude
Weekly Gratitude Journal
Some of the studies which produced the results described above, had subjects write down 5 things they were grateful for every week for 10 weeks. This exercise could include anything from earning a promotion to remembering your umbrella before it rained. While the study itself was a weekly gratitude list, you can keep a daily tracker if you’d prefer. This exercise is supposed to be very personal, so be honest with yourself.
There is certainly someone in your life that you can thank for what they have done for you. Expressing this gratitude will not only make you feel more positive, but it will give that person a happy boost as well. You can write them a letter, bring this up in casual conversation, or plan out an event to express just how much you appreciate them. Be sure to be specific about exactly what they did that you want to thank them for.
Write a Gratitude Letter
You can write a letter to someone as mentioned above, and not deliver it. Maybe you are grateful for someone who has passed or has moved on out of your life. Writing your thoughts down can be very cathartic, and can help you to get what you need to say out of your system. This also works for writing a letter to yourself: past, present, or future. What choices have you made that you are grateful for? Did you make sacrifices to be a better you today? Thank yourself. Appreciate your life. There is much to be grateful for.
Replace Ungrateful and Negative Thoughts
A lot of negative behavior is due to bad habits. We tend to cling on to what is wrong in life and forget about what is going right. Tell yourself that from now on you are going to be more aware of these negative thoughts and choose to replace them with good ones.
Let’s say are going through a break-up. Here is something you might say:
“I am never going to get over this, I’ll never find another guy like him. I wasted so much of my life.”
Your emotions can cloud your judgment and make a smaller problem seem much larger. Something that might be said about this situation is:
“I’m glad we didn’t figure this all out after we had become much more serious. The lessons I have learned in this relationship have helped me to grow as a person. Now I know I deserve much better,”
See the difference? It’s okay to have a crappy day and be sad or angry about life. But you can’t let these strong emotions take over, and stay in control.
We all have a little creativity inside of us. That’s why this exercise can be really fun. I remember creating collages and scrapbooks when I was younger. I made something out of old memories, and all of the people in my pictures I was truly grateful for. You can draw, paint, schedule a party, design a piece of jewelry, or even make a playlist. The options are limitless for how you can express gratitude.