The Significance of Gratitude
“Let our lives be full of thanks and giving.” -Author Unknown
Each year in November, many of us gather with loved ones and reflect on the blessings in our lives to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. This is the perfect time of the year to talk about the meaning and importance of gratitude, but we hope you will consider using the information in this blog to find new ways to instill gratitude in your daily life, beyond the holiday season.
The word gratitude stems from the Latin word ‘gratia’- which also means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. The Webster’s Dictionary definition of gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” A large body of positive psychology research has indicated that people who are more grateful have higher levels of subjective well-being; they’re happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships. Grateful people also report greater personal growth, purpose in life, self-acceptance, and more positive ways of coping with the difficult things that happen in their lives.
Other Mental Health Benefits of Gratitude:
Greater level of optimism
Improves mood and increases positive emotions
Can help manage grief
Contributes to Happiness
Strengthens relationships with partners, friends, and loved ones
Enhances productivity and improves satisfaction at work
Gratitude is also related to better physical health; there is a strong relationship between gratitude and cardiovascular health, lower stress and inflammation, fewer trips to the doctor, increased sexual satisfaction, and better sleep quality.
Here are some things you can do to build gratitude into your daily routine:
Take a few minutes each day to reflect on the things in your life that you are grateful for
Slow down and observe the beauty and goodness of something you encounter in your daily life
If you see a stranger struggling, offer a hand. Random acts of kindness are an opportunity to “pay it forward” to acknowledge your own blessings that can be used to help others. Offering kindness is also a great way to express your appreciation for others- and it is likely to elicit their feelings of gratitude toward you!
Express your gratitude verbally. Words are the most direct and sometimes the most powerful way to express gratitude to the people in our lives
Write a gratitude letter or note. You can write down the things you appreciate about a friend or loved one in a letter or thank you card. It takes very little time but can be a powerful, sincere expression of gratitude
Ask how they’re doing and really listen to their response. The simple act of listening to your friend or loved one is a great way to show them how much you value them. Put down your phone, offer your full attention and a bit of your time, and let them talk freely to you
Pay attention to the small things in your life that bring you joy and peace. If you enjoy writing, a journal can be a great way to reflect on gratitude consistently
Spend time in meditation or prayer focused on giving thanks.
Gratitude Can Be Hard
Gratitude has many emotional and physical benefits, but that doesn’t mean that it comes without challenges or that it’s easy to shift your thinking in this way. Gratitude is about getting into the habit of reflecting on the good in our lives while also acknowledging that positives and negatives are a fact of life. Most of us don’t experience days that are either ALL good or ALL bad. Being grateful does not require that you ignore or minimize your personal struggles. On our most stressful or difficult days, shifting toward a gratitude mindset can help us step back and see that there is good to be found, even if some days we have to try a little harder to see it.
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