I don’t know about you but I’m really good at being grateful in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. The rest of the year…not so much. I may have a fleeting thought of thankfulness for a sunny day or a particularly fun weekend with my family, but I am certainly not very intentional with being thankful for what I have day-to-day.
We’re now six months away from Thanksgiving, quickly approaching summer AKA the season of social media envy, where it seems like all of our friends are going on grander vacations, completing fancier home improvement projects, and spending quality time with their perfectly behaved children.
There’s a cure for this envy my friends and it’s called gratitude.
I titled this post “Gratitude is Sexy” in response to a quote in one to the articles I read as I was researching. It said “It may not be sexy to be grateful, but people will respect you for it.”
I’ve concluded that all of the research points to gratitude being sexy. (The author of that article does later admit that gratitude may be sexy).
Alright, so I’m being slightly facetious…but whats sexier than a happy, healthy, confident person? Keep reading and see if you agree!
Gratitude Makes You Happier and More Confident
Author Harold G. Coffin once said “Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.”
It’s all too easy in our consumerist culture to get wrapped up in feeling like we need more stuff, more money, better hair, more friends, the newest technology, etc. We are bombarded by advertisers telling us that we need more. We then develop a scarcity mindset which gives us the perspective that there isn’t enough to go around.
It makes us bitter and resentful towards those who we perceive as having more than us and it steals from us the joy of recognizing all of the good and beautiful things in our lives.
Envy is the antithesis of gratitude.
How do we combat this constant need for more?
We must shift our attention from what we lack to what we have. When we intentionally recognize the good things in our lives, it makes us less self-centered, less materialistic, and much more pleasant to be around, which in turn makes us happier.
Looking outside of ourselves and seeing that others have helped us get to where we are today also builds a sense of self-worth. You realize that you are valuable; you are someone worth investing in.
Happiness and confidence are just a couple of the positive mental and emotional outcomes of practicing gratitude.
People who regularly practice being thankful also report lower levels of depression and stress, improved relationships, and higher levels of positive emotions.
But now, gratitude research asking a new question – could practicing thankfulness have an effect on your physical health?
Gratitude is Good for Your Health
The answer is YES!
Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis reports that practicing gratitude can lower blood pressure, improve quality of sleep, contribute to better heart health, and boost immune system functioning.
The evidence also seems to suggest that grateful people take better care of their bodies. One study found that people who kept a gratitude journal exercised 40 more minutes per week than the control group. Another study found that people who kept a gratitude journal consumed 25% less dietary fat.
Gratitude is good for you mind, body, and soul, and it extends even further – it’s good for humankind as a whole.
Gratitude is Good for Society
Let’s zoom out from the individual perspective for a moment and take a look at what gratitude does on a larger scale.
Have you ever heard the term “social capital”? It’s a term I heard in college, but haven’t thought much about since.
Social Capital can be thought of as ” the links, shared values and understandings in society that enable individuals and groups to trust each other and so work together.” A culture with high social capital encourages trust and cooperation among it’s people.
As it turns out, gratitude fosters social capital, which is good for everyone!
Researchers Robert A. Emmons and Anjali Mishra found that “gratitude builds social resources by strengthening relationships and promoting prosocial actions.” More specifically, gratitude encourages us to initiate new friendships, strengthens our existing relationships, and fosters trust with those around us.
Gratitude is all about recognizing good and beauty outside of ourselves. Consequently, we feel a special connection to another person, nature, God, etc.
This deepens the intimacy of the relationship and benefits both the grateful person and the one to whom they are grateful.
This last point was the most exciting for me to discover in my research! Sure, it’s wonderful that gratitude makes us happier and healthier, but the fact that it’s benefits extend into our relationships and the good of society is just incredible.
Imagine the impact it would have if we all took a little time to be grateful each day.
If you’re like me and have not made a habit of integrating gratitude into your daily routine, I invite you to join me in completing the “30 Days of Gratitude Challenge”, which will be posted one week from today – on June 1, 2018.
You may feel like you’re not “good at gratitude”…but don’t let that stop you. Dr. Norman Rosenthal, psychiatrist and author of “Winter Blues” says, “Some people may not be grateful by nature but it is a habit you can get accustomed to.”
With all of the benefits gratitude has to offer, it’s worth a shot, right?
I’d love to hear your experience with gratitude – is this a daily practice for you? what role has gratitude played in your life? what affect has gratitude had on you? Comment below!