The positive effects of gratitude, a well-known wellness and mindfulness practice, range from improving mental and physical health to strengthening relationships. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, says that gratitude has two main components.
The first is the affirmation of goodness. Acknowledging the existence of good things, benefits, goodness in the world. The second is the acknowledgment that the source of this goodness is external, sometimes from other people, from nature itself, or from a spiritual perspective, from a higher power or energy.
According to Emmons, understanding gratitude means first recognizing the goodness around us and then accepting that we can see this goodness with the help of other factors. What is the practice of gratitude for living a good life and how to practice it? We have researched it for you!
Why should you practice gratitude?
1. It can reduce your stress levels
In a 2017 study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers analyzed that when you focus your attention and energy on what you are grateful for in the midst of a stressful situation, it leads to mental and physical calm and reduced stress levels.
2. Gives a positive outlook
It has been proven that the human brain automatically focuses on the negatives in life instead of the positives. Practicing challenges this habit of your brain and allows you to recognize even the small joys in your life. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you ignore the negativity in life, but it helps you see the big picture in a positive way and increases your resilience in the face of negative and challenging situations.
According to Clinical Psychologist and Neurotherapist Catherine Jackson, gratitude increases dopamine, which is responsible for brain functions such as motivation, mood and memory, and serotonin, which provides feelings of happiness and vitality. “A grateful mind allows you to be less stressed and feel more positive emotions,” says Catherine Jackson.
3. Strengthens relationships
When things bother you in your social relationships, focusing on the negative, flawed aspects of people you find flawed leads to communication problems and frustrations. Including gratitude in your life reinforces your sense of self-compassion and allows you to have a positive perception of what is going on in your inner world and the world around you.
4. Develops empathy
According to a study in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, people who regularly practice have an increased volume of gray matter in the right lobe of the brain, which is also responsible for emotional processes. This area is made up of the brain’s cell bodies that process information. Researchers associated this with a higher ability to better understand others. In light of this, practicing may be highly linked to better understanding others and improving empathy.
5. Promotes a healthy lifestyle
Having a regular gratitude practice helps you focus on the good in life and encourages you to make healthy choices for your body and mind. The positive mental health effects of practicing gratitude actually have a positive impact on your physical health. A 2004 study suggests that stress weakens your immunity to potential threats, while good mental health helps you fight disease by strengthening your immune system. A 2017 study analyzed that practicing gratitude can reduce the risks associated with heart failure.
Various ways to practice gratitude:
1. Gratitude journal & jar
Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the most popular gratitude practices. In gratitude journaling, you can write or list things that you are grateful for in your life, either in your notebook or on your phone, every day or on a single day, at intervals of your choosing. If taking notes is sometimes challenging, you can also adapt this practice by writing things you are grateful for on small pieces of paper and throwing them in a jar!
This way, you can open the lid of your notebook or jar whenever you want, record what you are grateful for, remind yourself, and reinforce your feelings.
Remembering and recording what you are grateful for will also help you to increase it. Gretchen Rubin, known for her many books such as “Happier at Home” and “The Happiness Project” and her podcast “Happier with Gretchen Rubin”, says that creating reminders and prompts for gratitude is helpful.
2. Gratitude board
Creating a gratitude board is a great alternative, especially for those with a visual learning style! In this practice, you can place images of those you are grateful for, your sibling, your best friend, your favorite city, a book that you know always inspires you, or the weather that is best for you on your board in your favorite corner of your home, thus reinforcing your sense of gratitude as you look at it. You can refresh and change these images at any time. This way, you will be motivated to find and see what you are grateful for.
Try to make room for meditation in the morning! In meditation practice, try to focus on what you are already grateful for, how you got to where you are now, how you have progressed in life. This meditation practice will help you see the present more clearly and feel gratitude in the present moment. Morning meditation will help you to start the day optimistically, but if you find it challenging to do it in the morning, you can also try to do it before going to sleep to start a good day the next day.
4. Letter of gratitude
Start the practice by reviewing what you are grateful for. Prepare a letter to express your gratitude to those around you who you have not yet expressed gratitude to, or to whom you would like to do so at that moment! These can be letters that you write on a piece of paper, or you can send them via email, or you may want to deliver your letter to them face to face. Then arrange a meeting! In this way, you can actually increase your level of gratitude and happiness, realize that gratitude is a beautiful feeling, and inspire others in your life.
5. Love language discovery
Discover the love language of your lover, your friends, your family, those around you. When you want to thank, appreciate or express your pride to the people in your life, you can learn their love language to convey your gratitude to them in the most meaningful way. This can sometimes be a hug, sometimes just a thank you or a gift. Being good to those around you will mutually reinforce their gratitude and yours.
6. Gratitude walks
You can make time for a walk at some point in your day, or if you already have a walking routine, you can turn it into a walk that focuses on gratitude. Physically, walking increases endorphins, heart health and circulation in the body. It also reduces stress mentally. Observe your surroundings during a walk in a beautiful park or a place surrounded by greenery. By focusing on different points such as the color of the trees, birds, plants, the feeling of your feet on the ground, you can both clear your mind and make more room for gratitude in your mind.