Why is practising daily gratitude so good for us? It turns out that gratitude’s don’t just make for pretty Instagram pictures… There is a real science behind the power of gratitude!
There are numerous scientific studies about the benefits of gratitude with some amazing results. In one study it was concluded that gratitude’s could rewire our brain to think differently. What this study found was that those who wrote down three things they are grateful for each day, for twenty-one days, started automatically looking for the good in each day. Their brain stopped scanning the world for negative views, which we often see so much of and instead actively looked for the positive. Other researchers found that simply keeping a gratitude journal could significantly increase wellbeing and life satisfaction once it became a habit. This research also identified a whole range of physical, psychological and social benefits to practising gratitude daily.
So here are some of the benefits the research on positive psychology has found:
Stronger immune systems.
Lower blood pressure.
Better sleep quality.
More energy to exercise more often.
Higher levels of positive emotions.
More helpful, generous, and compassionate.
Less likely to feel lonely and or isolated.
Happiness, self-confidence and feeling great in ourselves is something most of us must work on every day. I know this might sound boring, the idea of working on happiness almost feels counter intuitive, shouldn’t we just feel it instinctively, shouldn’t we just be happy? Of course, this comes more naturally to some of us but for a lot of us, me included, it needs to be nurtured and cultivated to make it more instinctive. I wish happiness wasn’t so fleeting and that it didn’t ebb and flow, after all, who wouldn’t want to do something once and keep the results forever, but I have noticed that daily practises can make achieving happiness significantly easier. Consciously re-framing my thinking and including gratitude’s, rather than focusing on negatives, has become much more intuitive with practise. Having free will to look at the world through whatever lens we choose helps move us from a place of desperation or sadness to a place of gratitude and stability. Knowing that you have that within you is enabling, powerful and available to anyone if they are willing to dig deep enough. I have learned that it is a choice. Finding that ability to dig deep is of course incredibly difficult. Many of us have habits and patterns that we would like to change but struggle to, I have definitely found that to be the case. It’s often much easier said than done and for me is still very much a work in progress.
Often, we are looking to make changes from an incredibly negative place and often it is not a lack of will power that inhibits our success, but that we have framed it in a way that makes the issue one of low self-worth. We are simply coming at it from the wrong angle. Making long term, sustained change comes from a completely different set of criteria, it must come from a positive place, a place in which we make ourselves feel worthy of achieving ambitious goals, by raising our self-esteem and sense of resilience, rather than depleting it. It needs to come from a place of worthiness. We must re-frame our thinking and shift our focus from looking at what is wrong to what is right, from what we hate to what we love and let positivity be the driver, so that we are not simply trying to move out of a bad place. I find this shift of perspective potentially life changing.
The lens we put on any situation can be extraordinarily powerful. Re-framing our thoughts and bringing in gratitude every day, while replacing expectation with appreciation, can be an absolute game changer. This is not a linear journey by any means, there are ups and downs, but by shifting from a negative to a positive mindset we can make phenomenal changes.
How to practise gratitude
So now we know why gratitude is so good for us, what is the best way to practise? Well, I think there is no time like the present! So, before you read any further, write down three things that you are grateful for right now. After all, even just a one-time act of gratitude can boost our happiness!
Done? If you did struggle to come up with three things that you are grateful for, then know that you are not alone. If you have spent a long time focusing on the negative, then it can be tough to rewire our brains in the beginning. Regular practise can help this become second nature. You can practise gratitude in a huge number of ways, depending on what works for us, however, here are some tips that I have picked up:
Get specific: In the beginning, we may be quite vague with our gratitude’s, such as I am grateful for my dog, or I am grateful for my family. Try to really expand on this, trying to get a bit more specific each day. For example, I am grateful that my friend called me today because she knew that I was feeling low. This helps us look outside of the more obvious gratitude’s.
Turn it into a game: Struggling to find something to be grateful for? Turn it into a game, challenge yourself to find a positive in everything, no matter how small or silly. You can also re-frame situations that may initially seem negative into something more positive. For example, my friend cancelled on me today, but I am grateful since it meant I had some alone time.
Extend your gratitude to someone else: If you put a particular person on your gratitude list, have you told them? If not, why not? Let your friend know you are grateful they called!
Adding gratitude’s to your evening routine can often be a really good way to ensure that you make it a habit. When you write down your gratitude’s before you go to sleep, your brain is thinking about all the positives for that day instead of focusing on the negatives. You may find it easier to drift off to sleep knowing that there is good in every day. Maybe you need to set a reminder on your phone for the same time each evening to help turn it into a habit.
Or you could of course begin your day with writing down your gratitude’s and start your day from this amazingly positive place.
It doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen, it’s about how you manage those bad things and focus on what is going right in your life.