Gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. But what does that really mean in our lives? Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation or thankfulness. It is the recognition of value in someone else or in oneself. It’s what we feel when someone does something considerate for us, or when we are simply aware of the good in our lives. You may feel grateful when your boss recognizes your hard work with a bonus or raise. You may feel grateful when a friend helps you out during a difficult time. And you may feel grateful by simply waking up alive every day.Gratitude helps us to refocus on the positive aspects of our lives, rather than dwelling on the negative. It allows us to appreciate what we have, rather than constantly striving for more—and it can help increase our resilience in the face of adversity.
Gratitude has been linked with benefits in both our mental and physical wellbeing. By taking the time to recognize moments where we can feel gratitude, we feel increased happiness and life satisfaction, have stronger relationships and more supportive friendships, and even increased productivity at work.
When we feel gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters associated with happiness. Dopamine is often called the “reward” neurotransmitter because it helps to control the brain’s pleasure center. Serotonin, on the other hand, regulates mood, appetite and sleep. So when we feel gratitude, we get an immediate boost of both happiness and calmness.In addition to making us feel good in the moment, gratitude also has some long-term benefits for our mental health. Studies have shown that people who regularly practice gratitude have lower levels of stress and anxiety, depression and loneliness, and have better sleep schedules and quality of sleep. Expressing more gratitude on a daily basis can truly improve your mental health, and it can be a simple practice for your friends and family members, for your job or school situation (even if it’s not perfect), for your health, and any other aspects in your life that makes you feel grateful to be apart of.
In terms of physical health, gratitude has been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation. For example, writing about your experiences of gratitude has been shown to lead to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Keeping a weekly journal focusing on what we are grateful for has been shown to reduce blood pressure and inflammation levels. Other research has found that people who practice more gratitude have better sleep quality and are less likely to experience insomnia. Gratitude has also been linked with a healthier heart, as people with congestive heart failure who participated in group sessions focused on expressing thanks had better clinical outcomes than those who didn't participate in any sort of intervention.
Gratitude may even help protect you from getting sick in the first place. Studies have shown evidence that when people wrote about things they were grateful for, they were more likely to get flu vaccinations and take care of other preventive measures like washing their hands regularly. It has been found that employees who felt appreciated by their supervisors had lower rates of absenteeism due to illness than employees who didn't feel appreciated by their bosses.
Practicing gratitude can lead to us feeling less envy, anxiety, depression and resentment, because overall it creates a sense of well-being by increasing positive emotions while decreasing negative ones. Additionally, people who regularly count their blessings are more likely to help others in need—making the world a kinder place. Gratitude simply feels good—it fills us up with positive energy that can be used to power through tough times or take on new challenges. Here are some ways to cultivate more gratitude into your life:
There are certain emotions we might consider more or less throughout our lives. We wonder how they come about, we wonder how they’ve left when we don’t feel them anymore, we wonder what other emotions they can bring about or what other emotions might cause them. Gratitude, is one of these emotions. Adding one or two of these strategies into your life might have profound impacts on your mental health.