Like Pilates, Gratitude is a Practice
Don’t get me wrong. These times we’re all going through right now are really tough. But if you’re worried that there’s too much going on in the world right now that makes you feel worried, stressed, or unhappy, it’s important to remember that gratitude is a choice. We can choose to be grateful even when we are experiencing hurt, resentment, or anger; even when our circumstances or life situations are challenging or difficult. Gratitude doesn’t have to be something that just wells up inside us, and you don’t necessarily need to feel it to practice it. Choosing to focus on what we can be grateful for is a choice we can make at any moment. And if you can make that choice, the benefits are enormous:
- Gratitude improves physical health and sleep: A 2003 study found that people who kept a weekly gratitude journal exercised more often, reported less pain, slept an average of 30 minutes more each night, and had higher quality sleep. A 2012 study echoed these findings, showing that grateful people experience less aches and pains and were in better physical health than their less grateful counterparts.
- Gratitude can help you achieve your goals: Two recent studies have shown that focusing on gratitude can help us beyond our physical health. In the first study, participants who focused on gratitude were able to delay gratification more often in order to realize greater rewards (for example, when offered the choice between receiving $50 today or $100 in a week, those who felt more grateful were able to delay their gratification in order to realize a greater financial reward). The more that the participants focused on gratitude, the more patient they were able to be. In the second study, those who focused weekly on gratitude made more progress toward personal goals than those who were not focusing on gratitude.
- Gratitude improves mental health and wellbeing: Gratitude can reduce a multitude of negative emotions, such as anger, resentment, frustration, and regret. Dr. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher and professor out of UC Berkeley, has conducted multiple studies that confirm that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. Other researchers have backed this up, showing that gratitude is more effective than other positive psychology interventions at increasing happiness and wellbeing.
So what are YOU grateful for? Next time you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed this holiday season, take a step back and think of three things that you are thankful for. Have you tried this practice? Share your comments on our Facebook page!