With Thanksgiving approaching, many of us are preparing to express our thanks. Gratitude has been celebrated in essentially every culture and religion -- from Christianity and Judaism to Islam and Native American traditions. As positive psychologist Shawn Achor points out in his amazing TED talk, practicing gratitude helps us notice and appreciate the good in our lives. We all know that giving and receiving appreciation can feel good. Now, science confirms there are real physical and emotional benefits to cultivating this quality -- on Turkey Day and year round.
As if you needed an excuse, here are eight reasons to love gratitude:
1. It can make you happier:
In a study led by positive psychologist Martin Seligman, people who completed a simple gratitude exercise for six months had higher levels of happiness and less depression than members of the control group. Other studies have shown that gratitude can improve one's mood enough that spouses see the difference.
2. It can reduce blood pressure:
Taking time to count your blessings may actually reduce your stress. People with high blood pressure who took time to count their blessings just once a week saw another blessing: a drop in their blood pressure.
3. It makes hearts healthier:
Gratitude makes our hearts feel good, and now there's evidence it makes them healthier, too. Positive emotions such as appreciation were associated with higher heart rate variability, a physiologic indicator of good heart health. And, among people who had a suffered heart attack, gratitude practice decreased the likelihood of a second attack.
4. It's associated with better sleep:
People who reported higher levels of gratitude fell asleep faster, reached a deeper level of rest, and slept longer, compared to people who were naturally less grateful. They also felt better and had less difficulty staying awake during the day. These findings were independent of other personality traits This skill can be trained: people who started a gratitude practice slept more and woke up feeling more refreshed than their counterparts without a gratitude practice.
5. It helps people exercise more:
Will gratitude get you moving? Researchers found that people randomly assigned to keep a weekly gratitude journal exercised 90 minutes more per week than those who assigned to jot down their annoyances, or 40 minutes more than those with no journaling practice.
6. It helps make vets more resilient:
Daily gratitude practice appears to improve psychological and emotional wellbeing among Vietnam Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress disorder.
7. It can help your relationship:
Squabbles about who does more work around the house or in the office can lead to major conflicts. In addition to dividing the labor as fairly as possible, expressing thanks for a partner's actions is one of the most powerful ways to keep a relationship strong.
8. Even a little bit helps:
Taking time to count one's blessings just once per week was shown to increase positive emotions, optimism and wellbeing. So, even if you can't incorporate gratitude every day, it's worth doing when you can.
If you're inspired by these benefits to begin counting blessings more in your life, here are four ways to get started:
1. Start a gratitude ritual at home:
Before beginning a family meal, including Thanksgiving feast, invite each family member to share one thing they're grateful for. Listen attentively as they share and "take in the good" from their life, as well as your own.
2. Journal your gratitude:
Many of the aforementioned studies asked participants to write down three things they're grateful for each day. Why not buy a special journal or even start a word processing document on your computer, and begin to list three blessings each day.
3. Find a gratitude buddy:
Social support can help us sustain any practice. One powerful way to build appreciation in your life is to exchange daily emails or texts with a "gratitude buddy" where you each list one to three things you're grateful for that day.
4. Write a thank-you letter (or email):
There are often people who have helped us in different ways who may not realize the extent of their positive impact. Taking time to write a thank-you letter or email has several benefits: the writer feels better as they're building gratitude, and the recipient experiences the blessing of their appreciation. This can be one powerful way to cultivate thankfulness, and it's even more potent if you're able to deliver the letter in person.
As you feast with family or friends, may you also give thanks, and experience the benefits of this practice. Please let me know how it goes in the comment section below. Happy Holidays!
For free meditations and more from Jamie, please visit www.jamiez.tv