It’s that time of year when we all start to think about what we’re grateful for — yes, it’s practically here.
While it’s nice to think about what we’re thankful for ahead of Thanksgiving and the holidays, being thankful all year around can have a tremendous impact on our well-being.
Recently, I was reminded of the power of gratitude. As someone who works hard and runs a business, I am endlessly set on achieving specific results. With my tenacity to set goals and reach them, there’s a little gremlin inside me that sometimes forgets to celebrate. I get a win and just push past it, move on — and go onto the next goal. There’s not a moment spent giving thanks — just moving forward.
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Sadly, that way of being has wreaked havoc on my sense of peace, achievement, and ability to go after my dreams. Without celebrating, I forget what I’ve achieved and beat myself up.
Maybe you know what that’s like, too. You get so wrapped up in your goals and in solving life’s problems that you forget to stop, breathe, and be thankful.
To help make life better, I made a decision. I will take more time to say “Thank you.” Give a little more conscious effort to celebrating what is right, what’s good, and what’s made a difference.
By giving more time to feel grateful, you can make life immensely better. In fact, here are seven scientifically proven benefits that will inspire you to celebrate and say thanks more often.
1.) Gratitude improves physical health. According to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, people who are thankful experience less physical pain — fewer aches and pains just by being grateful. That’s all you had to say: I’m in! On top of that, another study done at the Massachusetts General Hospital found that gratitude improves the health of the heart. No wonder my heart feels happier and muscles look so great — it’s all that gratitude!
It’s now evident and scientifically proven that by practicing gratitude, we will reduce our feelings of anger, frustration and aggression.
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2.) Gratitude improves empathy. When researchers at the Greater Good magazine looked at how appreciation impacts the brain, they found that it increases brain activity in the areas responsible for compassion, understanding and connection. This intensification in these areas can help you better relate to others, resolve problems, and raise emotional intelligence — all the stuff that makes working and living with others much easier.
3.) Gratitude reduces aggression and makes you more peaceful. Research at multiple labs and research centers have all concluded that by practicing gratitude, we can lessen aggression and increase compassion. The Sage Journal Research Publication has a series of studies showing all the research. It’s now evident and scientifically proven that by practicing gratitude, we will reduce our feelings of anger, frustration and aggression.
4.) Grateful people sleep better. If you have trouble sleeping, you’ll love this. By merely writing in a gratitude journal before bed, you’ll sleep better. According to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, by simply spending just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, you can improve the quality of your sleep. If you’ve been suffering from insomnia or poor sleep, give writing what you’re thankful for before bed a chance. It could help you doze off better and have more profound sleep.
5.) Try gratitude to hone and improve your memory. Did you forget something? According to a study at the Department of Psychology in Spain, gratitude can improve an individual’s ability to recall information. By simply taking some conscious time to be thankful, you’ll not only enhance your happiness, you’ll also have better memory as you age. Now I know why I’ve recalled due dates, birthdays, and other things better — it’s my gratitude practice.
How to start a gratitude ‘practice.’ If those five scientifically proven benefits got you jazzed up to start practicing gratitude, let me give you a few ideas on how to start your new practice.
Try using a gratitude journal. You saw the study that showed gratitude helps you sleep better. Try getting a diary specifically to write down what you appreciate in life. Before going to bed, write down what you are appreciative of — maybe a friend, a raise, the sunrise, another day above earth, a smile from a stranger. It can be anything.
Wake up and give thanks. When you wake up, consider what you are thankful for in your life. Maybe it’s as simple as a body without disease, fresh air, a running car, food in your fridge, some good news you’re expecting, a consistent job — or a dream you’re in the midst of manifesting.
Tell others thank you more often. One more little factoid for you: A 2014 study published in Emotion showed that saying thanks increases the likelihood of making a new friend. By telling people thanks, you endear them to you and compliment them, and in turn that makes them feel an increased sense of connection. Give thanks and watch new friendships open up, and not only that — you’ll feel better just because you’re practicing gratitude.
Luis Congdon helps entrepreneurs live their dreams. He travels the world most of the year but on occasion can be spotted in his earthen home on San Juan Island.