Gratitude is very powerful. We have only scratched the surface when it comes to discovering the various mental and physical effects it has. Let’s look at what you can expect if you start to make gratitude a daily focus.
The Mental Benefits Of Gratitude
Practicing gratitude helps your overall mental health. It allows you to have a better outlook on your life. Don’t be surprised if your next session ends with a smile on your face. But the benefits don’t stop at increased happiness.
The act of gratitude has been linked to a better self-image, less anxiety and/or stress, and even a reduction of the symptoms of depression. This comes as no surprise to scientists who have recorded increased levels of dopamine and serotonin after intentional gratitude meditation sessions.
The Physical Benefits Of Gratitude
It’s one thing to feel better emotionally, but the release of these “feel-good” hormones affects your physical body as well. Gratitude reduces stress, you will sleep better, your blood pressure will be powered, and you will have more energy. As a result, you will move more which leads to better overall physical health.
Gratitude will motivate you to go out for a walk, get more oxygen into your body, and load up on Vitamin D. It can help you sleep soundly and reduce your appetite. Having less stress helps you make smarter food choices. All these things will help turn you into a healthier and stronger version of yourself.
Gratitude is also important for heart health. By lowering your blood pressure and reducing stress, you are putting less strain on your heart. The added exercise and sleep you receive from gratitude will strengthen your heart muscle.
This gives your heart the time to recover and heal overnight. With heart disease one of the leading causes of death in modern society, there’s never been a better time to practice gratitude and let go of stress.
Maybe it is time to create a habit of thinking of at least one person or one thing you are deeply grateful for each morning. It sets the tone for the whole day.
Gratitude Is All About Choices
How you feel – how happy you are, how stressed you are, even how well you sleep – may seem like it’s out of your hand, but it is actually a choice you make. You can choose to be grateful for what you have and happiness follows. Or you can choose to focus on what you’re lacking, who has wronged you, and what’s not going your way.
What happens then? You’ll feel miserable. You may blame others, circumstances, or fate for your unhappiness. But at the end of the day, it’s all about you and the choices you make. You choose happiness or misery.
How can you make sure you make the right choices throughout life? One of the simplest ways to ensure you live a happy and fulfilled life is to focus on gratitude. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
You may get upset when someone does something to upset you, and that’s okay. How you choose to move forward from there is what makes the difference. You can choose to dwell on what happened. The more you think about it, the angrier you may get.
Instead of being angry, talk to your friend. Find out why she upset you. What if you find out that she had a family emergency that caused her to miss your plans together.
How guilty would you feel then about the anger you let yourself feel towards her? And how guilty would she feel for having ruined your day?
Focusing on gratitude and making the best of the situation will help you create happiness for yourself.
The more you read and learn about the power of gratitude on your body and mind, the more you will see how much it can do for you. Let’s take a look at how forgiveness can free us from the things that are holding us back. Let’s look into the mind-body connection of practicing (or not practicing) forgiveness.
Think back on the last time you held a grudge. What did that feel like? Did you have trouble sleeping? Were you distracted from other, more important things? What did you lose because you chose to stay angry at the other person?
Holding a grudge isn’t good for you. The person you’re holding the grudge against probably doesn’t remember what they did. They are not suffering because you’re upset. You are.
You’re holding on to all that negativity and it’s solely poisoning you. And it doesn’t stop at destroying your mental health. All this anger and resentment can and will make you physically sick.
Don’t let holding a grudge make you sick. Instead, focus on forgiveness and gratitude. Take a deep breath and find it in your heart to forgive the other person. It’s not easy, but it is within your power.
Be a better person. Take the higher road. Do it for yourself because you know you will instantly feel better. It will do wonders for your mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Happiness Is A Conscious Focus.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret I learned years ago that has served me well. What you focus on comes to pass. When you practice gratitude you are training your mind to be more positive and this has some interesting physical implications.
Practicing gratitude and positive thinking directly affects your brain chemistry. By focusing on gratitude and happiness; you control the release of certain chemicals and neurotransmitters that influence how you feel both physically and mentally.
Focusing on happiness and gratitude leads to the release of two “feel good” hormones – dopamine and serotonin. These two neurotransmitters are responsible for those fuzzy warm feelings. Yes, there are other ways to get them like exercise and chocolate for example.
But who wouldn’t want to increase these powerful antidepressants with something as simple as giving and receiving gratitude? Focusing on positivity and making a conscious effort to be more grateful and happier changes the balance of hormones and neurotransmitters in your body and brain.
In short, practicing gratitude and the resulting feeling of happiness are a powerful strategy to beat depression and anxiety, often working better than prescription drugs – and without the nasty side effects.
Fewer Stress Hormones
When you are anxious or scared, the body releases stress hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and the likes. This helps you react fast when you’re about to be hit by a car and make you run faster when you need to get away from someone. But it works against you and robs you of your health and wellbeing when it’s a response to something that isn’t a physical danger.
Stress hormones can lead to weight gain, depression, anxiety, and they can cause problems with your heart. You should do what you can to reduce the stress you feel. One of the most powerful strategies is to start practicing gratitude and positive thinking.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
How to Get Started
How do you start adding gratitude to your everyday life? A great way to start is to simply
- Take a deep breath and pause for a moment when things go wrong and everything is starting to feel overwhelming.
- Then come up with one little thing you are grateful for. It can be something as simple as being able to breathe fresh, clean air, or living to fight another day. Find that something and start to build on it.
- Make a mental list of things you are grateful for until the desperation starts to lift and you can start to think clearly.
- When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and don’t forget to count your blessings and use gratitude to turn what you have into enough.
Get Rid of Negativity
Practicing gratitude and focusing on positivity is easier said than done. Especially if you are struggling with anxiety and depression. If you ever find yourself spiraling into the deep pit of depression then get help if you need it. There’s nothing wrong with talking to a counselor or getting therapy. It’s the smart thing to do.
When things aren’t quite that bad, there’s a lot you can do to get yourself unstuck from all that negativity. Start by acknowledging it and putting it into words. How exactly do you feel? Is it anger or annoyance? Frustration or disappointment?
Try to be specific. Dig deep. Yes, it can be painful and some people prefer to avoid thinking about these feelings. However, the first step to getting yourself unstuck is determining exactly where you are, emotionally.
Once you’ve identified the feeling, you can start to work on discovering what caused them. Sometimes the answer is obvious. Other times, not so much. In either case, I encourage you to dig deep because often the obvious answer isn’t the real root cause.
Once you find the true reason for your negative feelings, you can start to work to resolve them. The important takeaway here is that it gives you something specific and meaningful to do. You no longer feel out of control or helpless. It’s something you can work with and that alone will help you think more positively.
A journal can be a great tool to help you along the way. Try talking to a close friend or confidant when you feel stuck and you can’t see a path towards positivity. An outside perspective can give a lot of clarity. Meditation can be helpful as well.
Last but not least, surround yourself with positivity. Get outside and enjoy nature. Spend some time helping others. And don’t forget to remind yourself regularly of everything you have to be grateful for.
Turning Gratitude Outward
Practicing gratitude will have a big impact on those around you and the world at large when you start to turn your gratitude outwards. If we practice gratitude we’re also getting better at things like kindness, generosity, orderliness, courage, honesty, and respect to name a few.
What does this mean in practical terms? If we practice gratitude, we will become better people.
Now let’s take this a step further. Instead of simply practicing gratitude for yourself, what if you take it out to the world at large? What could happen? What force of good could you create?
There is no telling how many lives you could influence for the better. Let’s take a look at how you, I, and everyone else reading this can start to turn their gratitude outward and share it with those around them.
Random Acts of Kindness
Do something kind for a stranger. This can be something as simple as giving an open and honest smile to a stranger on the street or a few kind words and a compliment for the cashier ringing up your groceries.
It could be taking a meal to an elderly neighbor or buying a drink for the person behind you in the coffee shop drive-thru line. Make it a goal to do something kind for someone each day and do it intentionally.
Respect And Thank Those Who Serve You
There are so many people in our communities that serve us from first responders to the waitress at your favorite restaurant. Make it a point to be respectful and thank them with words, with actions, and in the case of that waitress with a generous tip. Show them how grateful you are for everything they do to make your life easier.
Volunteer In Your Community
What better way to show your gratitude than to give your time and your skills. There are many opportunities for anyone to volunteer in various projects and for a variety of different causes.
See what’s available in your community and make an effort to put in some time to volunteer each month. Not only is it a wonderful way to give back and spread gratitude, but you’ll be amazed at how much you get out of it.
Develop Deeper Relationships
Last but not least, I would like to encourage you to work on developing deeper relationships. You will have a stronger sense of gratitude and lead by example when you take the time to listen and actively work on coming closer to the people you love.
Simple Ways To Show Gratitude
- Tell the people you love how grateful you are for them. We often take the ones closest to us for granted. Make a point to do it regularly and be specific to make it meaningful.
- Think about the people who challenge you. Express your gratitude for how they help you grow and make you stronger.
- Take a few minutes each week to write a letter or email to a person who has made a difference to you at one point or another. This could be a teacher, a mentor, an old friend … anyone you can think of.
- Give the gift of your time to someone to show without words how grateful you are to have them in your life. This is particularly important for the elderly people in your life. Your time with them is limited. Make the most of it.
- Start using a gratitude journal and make the time to write down three things you are grateful for every single day. It will brighten even your worst days and put things into perspective.
- Forgive yourself when you don’t reach all your goals, or things don’t go your way. Be grateful for what you have and what you are learning from each experience.
- Compliment the people around you. Make them feel good about themselves. It’s a powerful way to show gratitude in an indirect way. Small, meaningful gifts and acts of service do the same.
- Pay it forward. Do something nice for someone you work with or a total stranger. Random acts of kindness are a wonderful way to spread gratitude and bring more positivity into the world.
- Give a hug and a kind word to someone who’s struggling. Show them through physical affection that you’re there for them and grateful to have them in your life.
- Show your body and mind gratitude for what they do for you day in and day out by taking care of yourself and investing in regular self-care.
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
William Arthur Ward
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