Gratitude is the Best Attitude
The holiday season is quickly approaching. For many, it is a time of celebration, love, family, and giving. The holidays also bring on A LOT of stress. From travel plans, to family dynamics, to finances and the endless list of to-dos, the holidays can be exhausting to say the least. In my work with clients over the years, I have also observed the pain that surfaces as a result of the holiday season. The holidays are often a reminder of family tension, loss, sadness, or even grief.
With most things in life, we all have different experiences. Our specific stress varies, but there is one common self-care activity that can positively benefit us all. Research shows that the practice of expressing gratitude can have both short-term and long-lasting positive affects. The practice of gratitude has been well-researched and the results are in: IT IS GREAT FOR YOU! The best part of practicing gratitude is that it does not have to take up a ton of time. It can be done in the privacy of your own home/car or you could choose to practice with a loved one (i.e. expressing gratitude directly). We may think about things and people we are grateful for, but how often do we state it out loud or write it down. The impact of taking a few seconds to acknowledge it, may bring more positive feelings than you ever thought.
What does the research say about Gratitude?
- Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or send a thank-you note to that colleague who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.
- Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.
- Gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
- Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kindly, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.
- Grateful people sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.
- Gratitude improves self-esteem. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athletes’ self-esteem, an essential component to optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs—a major factor in reduced self-esteem—grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
- Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. 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 that you have to be thankful for —even during the worst times—fosters resilience.
Disclaimer: Please note, the information offered on this website/blog is not, nor is it intended to be, therapy or psychological advice, nor does it constitute a client/therapist relationship. Please consult a mental health provider for individual support regarding your own personal health or well-being or call 1-800-950-NAMI for resources and support.