Why Gratitude, and How We Can Benefit
Gratitude – what is it good for? It turns out practicing gratitude helps us with significant mental health benefits, improved physical health, and even has a positive impact on addiction recovery journeys. Studies into the full breadth of the benefits of being grateful are still ongoing, but what we do know is very exciting.
Mental Health Benefits
Those practicing gratitude enjoy a multitude of mental health benefits. They experience an increase in happiness anywhere from 10-25% and a reduction in the experience of mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Being grateful helps people feel more positive about their lives overall.
There have been multiple studies to confirm that gratitude aids in stress reduction. The reduction of cortisol has the added benefit of reducing blood pressure and reducing the risk of multiple diseases. One study found that women who practiced a gratitude journal had a lower blood pressure than those who did not after a period of only two weeks.
There are many other theorized physical health benefits of gratefulness, but some debate about the accuracy of these findings. The fact remains that there have been studies that demonstrate at the very least an improvement in heart health and reduction in stress.
There is research that suggests that gratitude practice can reduce the likelihood of relapse. One study, in particular, found that the more a sense of gratitude grows the less likely a person is to engage in substance use. That is incredible news for the recovery community. It means that practicing gratitude is another coping mechanism that can be used in relapse prevention.
In short, there is already an understanding in the psychological community that gratitude is excellent for us in ways that we don’t fully understand yet. Mentally, physically, and socially, gratitude improves our lives. Gratitude research continues, but all the conclusions thus far tell us that gratitude is worthwhile to practice for everyone.
So how do we reap these benefits of gratitude and incorporate it into our lives? Here are some options:
Make note of the things that you are grateful for. No need for a fancy journal here—just the simple practice of weekly gratitude journaling has demonstrable positives like those outlined above.
Think about a special someone
Think about a person you are grateful for. What has been their positive impact on your life? It can be helpful to take time and appreciate the wonderful people that have improved our lives.
Write/Send a Letter
While you’re thinking of someone—why not write them a letter? The act of writing someone all the reasons why you are grateful for having them in your lives can be particularly helpful in increasing the quality of your social bonds. This particular expression of gratitude is excellent in that you share positive feelings with someone else.
Count Your Blessings
This habit is not one that needs to be engaged in daily. Once a week, write around three things that happened that you are grateful for. No need for fancy journals here—just the simple expression of three things that you are grateful for will do.
Reflect on what you have
If you find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts, try thinking instead of what you are grateful for. Interrupting a negative spiral this way is an excellent intervention and can help you to train yourself to be grateful for and happier with your life.
There are so many ways you can incorporate more gratitude into your life. There is also research that says that this might be one of the best habits for increasing overall quality of life and aiding in recovery journeys.
What are you grateful for? You will probably benefit from thinking about it.