For at least 2000 years ancient scholars and philosophers recognized the value of practicing gratitude in humans’ daily lives. The Benefits In Gratefulness are many. For example, Roman philosopher Cicero believed that gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues, but the parent of all others. Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. Practicing gratefulness turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend, a bad experience into good. . . .
Gratitude makes sense of our past, but we shouldn’t dwell on the past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Self-esteem and feeling good about yourself is one thing, but expressing gratitude for the good things that you have is a sign that you don’t expect the world to provide for you, or everyone owes you. This is a great quote on gratitude:
Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
According to the Harris Poll Happiness Index, only 1 in 3 Americans reports being “very happy.” More than half say they’re frustrated at or by work alone. Other research, like the bmj study, suggests nearly 1 in 4 experiences no life enjoyment at all. So, you can readily see, there is something wrong with this picture! Why are so many people so unhappy?
Science and research, like this National Institutes Of Health (NIH) study, shows that people who are grateful tend to show higher levels of well-being and happiness and they feel better about themselves and their lives, and their improved mental health and even feel good about reporting them. From a scientific perspective, gratitude is not just an action like saying “thank you”.
Gratitude is a positive emotion, which is really important because it serves a life-long purpose. Psychologists contend that gratitude is more than feeling thankful for something, it is more like a deeper appreciation for someone, or something, which produces longer lasting mental positively and well being.
Of course, studies such as this one cannot prove cause and effect. But most of the studies published on this topic support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being.
said a Harvard Medical study “In Praise Of Gratitude”.
Other studies have shown that focusing on the negative in times of adversity, using derogatory or critical words as you talk to yourself or others, and not focusing on being grateful, can darken your mood and, much like a virus, infect not only you but the moods of those you interact with. Consciously choosing to fill our minds with thoughts of our blessings and feeling appreciation for those blessings can change the way we feel and brighten our spirits during difficult times.
And it undoubtedly proves that gratitude is more than just a simple sentiment. Harvard Medical School describes gratitude this way…..
a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals, whether to other people, nature, or a higher power
Studies link gratitude to receiving beneficial effects on the release of mood neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine and the social bonding hormone oxytocin, reducing inflammatory cytokines, strengthening the immune system and controlling stress hormones like cortisol.
Living in gratitude also lower blood pressure and blood sugar, enjoy better sleep quality, reduced risk of heart disease, and better kidney function. It should be pretty obvious by the hormones that are affected, the benefits of living a life in gratitude extend much further than purely physical. Expressing gratitude to those who have given us something, whether that is out of the goodness of their hearts or in the line of duty, also helps them to feel good, and improves their self-esteem, as well.
Gratitude has been shown to improve social ties and promotes more social behavior. It makes other people want to show gratitude too, a phenomenon known as ‘upstream reciprocity’, or what is also known as an upward spiral effect. The NIH addressed upstream reciprocity and the evolution of gratitude in this study, and proposed it would be something we all would welcome, resulting in an explosive increase of altruistic acts.
Grateful people tend to want to repay favors, and not just to the person who did them the favor but also to extend it to other people as well. Someone who is grateful is the polar opposite of the person who feels that they are owed something by the world. They have the gift of enjoying and valuing what they have, which makes them rewarding friends and companions. In other words, gratitude shows that you do not take things for granite.
It now appears that some psychologists have arrived at the same conclusion. Being mindfully grateful for our blessings and expressing gratitude has a strong correlation with increasing our personal happiness and well-being.
For example, Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, and one of the leading scholars in the scientific study of gratitude, reported in a 2003 study that grateful people experience more optimism, joy, enthusiasm, and other positive emotions, and they have a deeper appreciation for life’s simple pleasures. This short video (1) goes into a brief description of being grateful by Dr. Emmons. Here is Dr. Emmons full hour lecture (2) at Biola University on “Gratitude Works.”
The gratitude group also reported fewer physical health concerns, like headaches, and spent significantly more time exercising than people in the other two groups. Another positive outcome. According to the criteria Dr. Emmons used to calculate well-being, the people in the gratitude group were a full 25% happier than the participants in the other hassles group, or neutral groups.
These researchers also found that by expressing gratitude for people in your life, like a friend or romantic partner, you can report higher levels of satisfaction in relationships. The most intriguing fact to come out of this study though, was that gratitude is a skill that can be learned and nurtured, much like perfecting your Grandmother’s secret recipe. The important thing is to make a commitment to integrating gratitude into your life in a conscious and deliberate way and to make a written plan for how you’ll do that.
Over the past decade there has been a growing body of scientific literature linking the practice of consistent gratitude with a host of positive outcomes for our lives. A 2008 study, “The Role Of Gratitude In Developing Of Social Support, Stress, and Depression”, researchers found practice of gratitude is incompatible with negative emotions and may actually diminish or deter such feelings as aggression, anger, bitterness, greed, and depression.
Gratitude, however, doesn’t always come naturally. In our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to get caught up in the things that go wrong and feel like we’re living under our own private dark cloud. At the same time, we tend to adapt to the good things and people in our lives, taking them for granted. As a result, we often overlook everyday beauty and goodness, like a kind gesture from a stranger, say, or the warmth of our heater on a cold morning.
It is why it is so important that we make it a priority to live our life in gratitude, and enjoying the Benefits Of Greatfulness. Intentionally developing a grateful outlook helps us all recognize the good in our life and acknowledge that these things are truly “gifts” that we are fortunate to receive. So feeling and expressing gratitude helps you and those around you to feel good, and that tends to result in the good feelings being spread even further, strengthening relationships for every one.
Able To Cope With Stress and Trauma
How you deal with stress can have a big impact on your well-being. Grateful people can cope with stress in a more productive way. In one study, people who practiced gratitude were more likely to cope with stress by seeking help from others, looking for the positive in negative events, actively coping and planning. On the other hand, people who didn’t take time to live in the moment, or to “smell the roses”, were more likely to deal with stress by disengaging, blaming themselves, abusing substances, or being in denial.
Not only does being grateful relieve stress, it also aids with trauma experiences. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy and reviewed by the NIH, found that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Quoting the NIH study:
Although preliminary, these results provide support for the further investigation of gratitude in trauma survivors.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all you have to be thankful for, even during the worst times of your life, fosters resilience.
Gratitude Makes You Much More Patient
Psychological scientists are very interested in human impatience, and with its connection to emotion. It’s known, for example, that sadness can make us even more impatient than we are normally. When we are depressed, we tend to make decisions that devalue future promises in favor of the here and now.
Would the opposite be true as well? Researchers from Northeastern University has found that people who felt grateful for little, insignificant, everyday things, were more patient and better able to make sensible decisions compared to those who didn’t feel very gracious on a day-to-day basis.
Strengthen An Intimate Relationship
According to a study by the American Psychological Association, feeling grateful toward your partner, and vice versa, can improve numerous aspects of your relationship, including feelings of being connected and overall satisfaction as a couple. Feelings of gratitude are also related to reduced materialism (wanting stuff”)and overall satisfaction with life. So, for a newlywed couple just getting started, this is particularly good since there’s less desire to buy things you really don’t need and spend money you don’t really have, either.
Gratitude can also be a key ingredient in successful relationships after the “I do’s”, and especially as with couples transitioning into married life. Then there’s the research that shows that when husbands expresses more gratitude for a wife’s work, the wife perceives that the division of labor is more fair. Other studies have shown, like this APA one, a very important component of strengthening a relationship and dealing with relationship concerns, functions better through gratitude for the partners that “expressed” it verbally.
Research shows that mentally strong people tend to pity themselves less and value others more. When you express gratitude to yourself and those around you, people are more likely to want to engage in an ongoing relationship with you. In a study published in the Journal Of Personality and Individual Differences, and reviewed by the NIH, researchers asked people to rate their levels of gratitude, physical health and psychological health, as well as how likely they were to do well being-boosting behaviors like exercise, healthy eating and going to the doctor, when necessary, appreciating and caring for their bodies, and attracting and building stronger relationships.
In other words, the great paradox is that when we are truly grateful and appreciative of our life as it is “now”, we send out the positive vibrations of abundance, therefore attracting in more wonderful people, prosperity and experiences. The more abundant you feel, the more abundant you become. It shouldn’t surprise you that grateful people also build their self-esteem, building even a stronger belief that you’ve become more abundant, continuing an “upward spiral”. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athlete’s self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance.
More Restful Sleep
A study in the Journal Of Psychosomatic Research, and reviewed by ScienceDirect, has found that feeling grateful helps people sleep better and longer. If your brain goes into overdrive before bed worrying about what might happen, focusing on the good in your life might help you get more sleep. Those who rated higher for gratitude were able to fall asleep faster and had greater sleep quality and duration. As a result, they were also more alert during the day. Why? Grateful people are less likely to think negative and worrying thoughts when they’re falling asleep, and are more likely to think positive thoughts, the researchers write. Quoting the study:
The study is also the first to show that trait gratitude is related to sleep and to explain why this occurs, suggesting future directions for research, and novel clinical implications.
Strengthening Well Being
Experiments, like in this Springer Science study, have shown that people who partake in the “three good things” exercise, which, as the name suggests, prompts people to think of three good moments or things that happened to them “that day”, see considerable improvements in reducing depression and increasing overall happiness, sometimes in as little as a couple weeks. Being in the present allows us to experience joy, peace and calm. As all worries are about future anticipated events and sadness and pain comes from memories.
Another Sciencedirect study found a strong connection between gratitude and a healthy well being and reducing negative feelings and even depression. According to a Harvard Medical School study,
Giving thanks makes you happier!
Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Expressing gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build stronger relationships.
strong>Benefits Your Heart
According to a 2015 NIH “The Role of Gratitude in Spiritual Well-being in Asymptomatic Heart Failure Patients” study, realizing what you should be grateful for and actually writing it down, is good for your heart. Researchers recruited 186 heart failure patients who weren’t yet experiencing symptoms, such as shortness of breath or fatigue. After having the patients complete a set of psychological questionnaires, they found that gratitude was associated with less inflammation, which is a factor that can speed up the progression of heart failure.
The study further revealed after the heart patients kept a gratitude journal for 8 weeks, not only did their inflammation remain less, but also experienced healthier heart rhythms. In addition, the study group were also sleeping better and had improved well-being, which could be how gratitude indirectly improves heart health.
Makes One Less Aggressive Or Revengful
Grateful people are more likely to behave in a “pro-social” manner, even when others behave less kind, according to a 2012 study by the University Of Kentucky “Gratitude As An Antidote To Aggression”. According to Psychology Professor at UK, Dr. Nathan DeWall, grateful people are not just kinder, they are also less aggressive, too.
Dr. DeWall conducted five studies on gratitude, in which he conducted cross-sectional, longitudinal, experience sampling, and experimental studies with more than 900 undergraduate students to show that gratitude is linked to lower aggression, and as a trait and as a fleeting mood, discovering that giving thanks lowers daily aggression, hurt feelings and overall sensitivity. Quoting Dr. DeWall:
If you count your blessings, you’re more likely to empathize with other people,” said the researcher who is more well-known for studying factors that increased aggression. “More emphathetic people are less aggressive.
Now that we’ve covered the incredible Benefits In Gratefulness, your next thought should be, how do I do that? How do I become a grateful person? In our next article “How To Live Life In Gratitude”, scheduled for release in a few days, we will cover all the simple, every-day things you can practice in becoming a grateful person.
Just to give you an idea, some examples are, being mindful and appreciate what you have, keep a daily journal, get restful sleep, eat a well-balanced diet, spend time with love ones and pets, and many more…….
We leave you with a short video presentation from David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar, “It’s not happiness that gives you gratitude…it’s gratitude that gives you happiness….! (3)
We hope you found this article enlightening, and should you have comments or questions, please leave them below.
(1) Greater Good Science Center Video
(2) The Table-Biola CCT Video
(3) The TED Video