The Importance of Gratitude
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The word "gratitude" has several different meanings, which depend on the context. This word is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. The concept of gratitude is easy: it involves feeling or expressing appreciation for something received or done, often by another person.
Gratitude can be a part of a wider positive outlook on life that involves acknowledging and appreciating all of its positive aspects. Practicing gratitude can help us feel more positive emotions, as well as acknowledge and appreciate the positive aspects of our lives, while helping us cultivate better relationships with the people around us and even getting us through some difficult times.
We all have the ability to feel and express gratitude. And, according to the results of many research studies that have revealed the numerous benefits of practicing gratitude, we should not reserve giving thanks for Thanksgiving season only.
Here are some ways in which expressing gratitude can significantly benefit our lives:
Expressing gratitude is good for your health
A research study involving 1000 Swiss volunteers has revealed that higher levels of gratitude were associated with better self-reported physical health. Interestingly, practicing gratitude can also be good for your heart. Researchers from University of California examined the effects of expressing gratitude on the overall health of individuals with asymptomatic heart failure. Using blood tests, the scientists have found lower levels of inflammation and overall better heart health in individuals who regularly expressed their gratitude. In addition, researchers found that increased levels of gratitude were associated with better mood and less fatigue.
Gratitude can help you sleep better
According to a study by Canadian researchers, writing down the things you are grateful for can help you sleep better. In this study, the participants took 15 minutes before going to sleep to write in their gratitude journal reported being able to fall asleep faster and also getting better quality of sleep when compared to the study participants who did not keep a gratitude journal. In addition, the individuals who participated in their study reported that expressing their gratitude at the end of the day helped them feel calmer and less worried before going to sleep.
Expressing gratitude can be good for your mental health
The positive effects of gratitude on our psychological well-being have gained a lot of recognition, and gratitude practices have become one of the most popular positive psychological interventions focused on promoting wellness and prevention of anxiety and depression. In one study, researchers compared groups of health care practitioners in a stressful work situation and found that expressing gratitude helps to reduce work-related stress levels. The results of the study revealed that health care workers who kept gratitude diaries had reduced depressive symptoms and reduced perceived stress compared to groups that kept hassle diaries or no diaries. Another recent large study involving 300 adults had examined the effects of writing gratitude letters as a part of psychotherapy on mental health.
The study had found that the participants who expressed their gratitude by writing letters reported having better mental health than the other group, regardless of whether they had sent their letters to the recipients or not.
Expressing gratitude can make you happier
It seems that being aware of the things you are thankful for can also make you a happier person. Dr. Martin Selingman, a leading researcher in the field of positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, had carried out a study, in which he asked one group of participants to write about their early childhood memories, while another group was asked to write and personally deliver a letter expressing their gratitude to a person they had never thanked for a previous act of kindness. The results of the study revealed that the group who had written and personally delivered their gratitude letters had a large increase in their happiness scores, and the increased happiness effects lasted for over a month.
Expressing gratitude is good for your relationships
Research on gratitude has revealed that expressing gratitude can not only make your current relationships stronger, but also help you cultivate new ones. Scientists from the University of North Carolina who focused on the role of gratitude in long-term relationships have found that expressing gratitude is associated with higher levels of relationship satisfaction. In addition, another study has shown that expressing gratitude to a new acquaintance makes it more likely for them to seek an ongoing relationship. So, in other words, expressing gratitude not only helps us improve our present relationships, but also helps us cultivate new ones.
Eugenia Petoukhov is a Canadian-based researcher and scientific writer. She is particularly interested in the inner workings of the brain, as well as in molecular and experimental medicine.
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