Every day we face challenges that test us. Whether it is minor or major, our daily lives can sometimes be overwhelming. Researchers are discovering that the daily practicing gratitude is something we can incorporate into our daily lives to make these stressors more manageable.
Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. (Source: Oxford Dictionary)
When Five Good Friends began, we identified a significant international study – the Blue Zone Study. The study identified places around the world where people regularly live vibrant and healthy lives past the age of 100 – naming these Blue Zones.
“Gratitude always comes into play; research shows that people are happier if they are grateful for the positive things in their lives, rather than worrying about what might be missing.” says Dan Buettner in Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way.
In Hugh Van Clyde best seller The Resilience Project: Finding happiness through gratitude, empathy and mindfulness he argues that empathy, gratitude and mindfulness are the key to positivity.
“Through gratitude we can all get the tools we need to live a happier and more fulfilling life.”
“Gratitude for me, it’s the ability to pay attention to what we have got and not worry about what we don’t have.” He says.
Benefits of practicing gratitude
By practicing gratitude, you can rewire your brain to scan your environment for the positive.
The benefits of keeping a gratitude journal are measurable. People who focus on the areas of their lives that maximise positive emotions, tend to feel happier.
It's also still possible, and extremely helpful, to practice gratitude during challenging experiences. Negative emotions can narrow your range of potential actions and thoughts.
By focusing on even minor things you can be grateful for, you expand your cognitive processes and cultivate positive thoughts and feelings. This can have a favourable impact on your mental health, stress levels and quality of sleep.
There are numerous research studies demonstrating the effectiveness of a daily gratitude practice. For instance, a gratitude intervention for women with breast cancer found that daily practice led to higher levels of psychological functioning, perceived support, and ability to cope. By listing things in their lives, they were grateful for, the women were better able to move the focus away from the trauma of their disease to more positive emotions.
So why don’t more of us practice gratitude?
Often it comes down to ‘time’. Have you previously started an evening gratitude practice but after a couple of late nights or other interruptions to your routine, the momentum is broken?
The key is to stack it to an existing habit. Something you do daily such as brushing your teeth or boiling the kettle, so you are less likely to forget. Once it becomes ingrained as part of your morning routine, you will soon notice the benefits.