Are you the type of person who sees the glass as half full, or half empty? If it’s the latter, learning to cultivate and show gratitude may help you fill your cup until it is overflowing.
I like to call gratitude ‘Vitamin G,’ and it’s an essential nutrient for our overall health. I get my dose of Vitamin G daily, whether by expressing thankfulness to my husband, for my amazing community of students, for my health or for the work I am privileged to do, and more.
Practicing gratitude is one of the most important things we can do for our health. It invites us to focus on the greatness in our lives. And the more you focus on your blessings, the less likely you are to concentrate on the challenges.
1. Gratitude improves your romantic relationships
Good sex, communication, shared values, respect and honesty are all important to a good relationship, but here’s another essential you can add to the list: gratitude. Couples who are regularly appreciative of one another are more likely to stay committed to each other and remain together for the long haul. On a daily basis, make an effort to express gratitude to your partner, whether it’s for something grand or small, and especially if it’s something you typically take for granted!
2. Gratitude boosts your body image
We’re inundated with pictures that make us feel we’re not good enough. In one study, undergraduate women who briefly practiced gratitude before looking at photos of thin models reported feeling more satisfied with their bodies than the women who didn’t. I find this incredibly powerful. In just a few short minutes, we can become immensely happier with what we see in the mirror – regardless of what the magazines tell us we should look like.
3. Gratitude reduces angst and surliness in teenagers
Grumpy teenagers are a phase that many parents are familiar with, but you don’t necessarily have to suffer with four years of slamming doors and frowns. Teach teenagers practice gratitude. In one study, students who were asked to count their blessings reported feeling more grateful, optimistic and satisfied at school. They also experienced more overall life satisfaction.
4. Gratitude helps you sleep better
Try a little gratitude meditation before bed and you might find yourself in dreamland a whole lot sooner. Studies show that gratitude can help you experience better quality and longer sleep, reduce blood pressure, and ease anxiety and depression in patients with chronic pain.
5. Gratitude keeps you physically fit
Gratitude just might be the key to getting you into the gym more often. In one research study, participants were asked write down five things they were grateful for each week, as another group recording five things that bothered them. After 10 weeks, the gratitude group were not only happier, but spent more time exercising, reported fewer health complaints and had less symptoms of physical illness than the non-gratitude group.
So how do you cultivate gratitude? Practice! Keep a gratitude journal and write about the good things that happen to you every day. Set up a gratitude jar and write the good stuff on slips of paper, fold them up, and stuff them into the jar. Then, at the end of the year you can unfurl all the greatness! You can also download a gratitude app that reminds you to feel grateful.
Remember, gratitude is a muscle – and the more we focus on finding the bright side, it will become easier to find. And maybe it will even spill over into the dark side to make it a little lighter.