Today we’re talking about the power of gratitude, including:
- The science-backed benefits of regularly practicing gratitude,
- How gratitude rewires your brain (and hence changes your outlook on life),
- Common misconceptions about expressing gratitude, and
- How to start practicing gratitude now (and how simple it can be).
The truth is that regularly expressing gratitude is transformative (even life-changing).
It will change how you view yourself, the world and your place within the world. And it’s incredibly simple to do (which means that there’s no reason not to start a regular gratitude practice now).
And before moving on, be sure to grab your copy of 8 proven strategies to calm your mind and increase emotional resilience (which includes a simple, step-by-step gratitude practice). Using this powerful guide, you’ll quickly feel calmer, more confident and in control.
Let’s get started. . .
Table of Contents
The Power of Gratitude: Science-Backed Benefits of A Regular Gratitude Practice
To fully understand the power of gratitude, it’s important to look at what the science says.
The Physical Benefits Of Regularly Practicing Gratitude
Although the data around the physical benefits of gratitude has been mixed, there’s growing evidence that a regular gratitude practice improves sleep (both in length and quality of sleep).
Those who practice gratitude report having fewer negative and more positive thoughts, allowing them to more easily get to sleep (instead of ruminating on their worries and difficult thoughts when trying to get to sleep).
Moreover, a regular gratitude practice might support heart health by improving heart rate variability (an indicator of good heart health) and lower blood pressure. Although there’s not a lot of data on this yet, the early evidence is promising. Moreover, it makes sense that having more positive and less negative thoughts would lower blood pressure.
The Social Benefits of Expressing Gratitude Regularly
One of the reasons why gratitude is so powerful is because of its effect on your social behavior. Studies have shown that expressing gratitude regularly increases empathy and makes you more likely to offer help to others.
That means with gratitude comes more kindness and compassion. Think about the ripple effect that this could have within your life (and the world).
By simply expressing gratitude you can strengthen relationships with friends, family and colleagues. Given all that’s going on in the world – especially as I write this (2020) – this is good news.
The Mental Benefits Of A Regular Gratitude Practice
The science clearly shows that much of the power of gratitude comes from within – in how it shapes your mentality (your outlook on life). Studies show that gratitude (and having a disposition towards being grateful) increases optimism, produces positive feelings and boosts happiness.
Simply put: people who are grateful feel more satisfied and content.
Additionally, being grateful reduces negative – even toxic – emotions such as regret, anger, frustration and resentment. It can even reduce feelings of depression.
Gratefulness also makes you more resilient to stress (which means that you’ll bounce back from traumatic experiences more quickly). Thus, it makes you mentally stronger.
Add all of these benefits up (physical, social and mental) and it’s no wonder why so many sing the praises of expressing gratitude. Yet there’s more, because just listing the benefits doesn’t adequately describe the true power of gratitude. . .
The Real Power of Gratitude (And Why It Works)
So where does the power of gratitude really come from? It’s in how it changes your thinking. Practicing gratitude literally rewires your MIND to think and process thoughts differently.
How A Regular Gratitude Practice Rewires Your Mind
By regularly practicing gratitude, you’re forcing yourself to look for (and find) things to be grateful for. Think about how powerful that can be – especially when life isn’t going so well.
Because let’s face it, life isn’t always fun, rewarding, or positive. Sometimes it’s hard, depressing, and (just plain) sucks.
But by forcing your mind to be on the lookout for what’s good, the lessons learned through adversity and life’s simple pleasures (that you would otherwise take for granted), you’re changing your mindset.
This is a BIG DEAL because your mind is pre-wired (as a survival instinct) to see the bad, ignore the good and worry about all the possible negative outcomes. And so a regular gratitude practice works to counteract that.
But more importantly, gratitude is self-perpetuating. A regular gratitude practice attunes your mind to express gratitude on a regular basis. That means that you’re training your mind to BE more grateful (without having to think about it).
The Power of Gratitude Is In the Ripple Effect
Gratefulness helps to cultivate a growth mindset. What that means is that you’ll be less likely to allow fear and doubt to stop you, more resilient after a setback and less likely to feel sorry for yourself.
This is important because how you see the world (and yourself) influences how you live your life. And so it impacts your results. Gratefulness isn’t just about feeling better, but also about LIVING better.
Let me be clear about something: I’m not saying that practicing gratitude automatically creates success. It doesn’t work that way (because you don’t have control over other people or many of your circumstances).
But it will create better results than you’d get if you didn’t practice it.
[Recommended Reading: 10 Life Tips For How to Excel In Life].
Common Misconceptions About Being Grateful
There are 5 common gratitude myths that – if believed – could sway you away from believing fully in the power of gratitude:
- Regularly practicing gratitude will make life easier,
- It’s not possible to express gratitude during difficult times,
- Being grateful means always finding a silver lining,
- Expressing gratitude regularly will make you complacent, and
- You either have it (or you don’t) and can’t develop a grateful mindset.
Let’s break each one of these gratitude myths down.
Practicing Gratitude Doesn’t Mean Life Won’t Sometimes Feel Hard
Gratitude isn’t a cure-all to life’s woes. Life will still be messy. And although being grateful can sometimes ease your pain, it’s not always going to make you feel better.
Yet it will help you get through life’s difficulties with more strength and grace.
Practicing gratitude when life feels hard brings forth life’s simple pleasures. It can bring a smile to your face during painful moments. And it reminds you as to why life is worth living (no matter how hard it feels in the moment).
You Can Always Find Something To Be Grateful For (No Matter What)
No matter what’s going on in your life or the world, there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for.
It might be something small and simple, like the sound of the cardinal singing outside your window. Or it could be a lesson learned from failure. And sometimes it’s something you typically take for granted (because it’s all you have in that moment).
When I battled breast cancer, I learned this lesson the hard way. No matter what was going on, I always found something to be grateful for, such as:
- My husband checking in on me (and forcing me to eat),
- The belly laugh of my toddler (which still brought a smile to my face), and
- How good the warm water felt on my skin during my morning shower.
Even when my stomach hurt so badly that I could barely make it out of bed and when in fear that my cancer wouldn’t go away, I focused on the things I was grateful for and the WHY behind it all.
This practice gave me small moments of joy (even when things felt hopeless) and generally made life worth living. It pretty much saved my sanity (and made me more bearable to be around too)!
I promise that, no matter what. . .
Practicing Gratitude Isn’t About Finding A Silver-Lining
Gratitude isn’t about making up things to be grateful for. Nor is it about just thinking positively. Sometimes, the best you can do is to be grateful for the things you usually take for granted (like having warm water to shower with).
The truth is that you don’t have to like what’s going on in your life or the world to practice gratitude. In those moments, just be grateful for the simple things.
Being Grateful Won’t Make You Complacent
I sometimes hear people claim that regularly expressing gratitude will make you more complacent. As if being grateful for what you have will make you less likely to work hard to make your life (and the world) better.
That’s hogwash. Being grateful in the moment – especially when life feels difficult – isn’t going to deter you from wanting more good in your life.
Remember that practicing gratitude generates positive emotions, makes you more resilient and creates a growth mentality. That’s going to make you more likely to want to change things for the better and take action (and less likely to allow doubts to stop you). Thus, practicing gratitude will increase your motivation towards self-improvement.
Gratitude Is Developed and Strengthened Through Habit
Some people tend to have a more positive mindset. It comes more naturally to them. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s any easier for them to be grateful when times get tough.
On the contrary, it could make it harder for them when things happen that are unexpected (as a natural glass is half-full girl who was blindsided by a breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 38, I know what I’m talking about here).
But the good news is that it doesn’t matter. Regardless of your natural mentality, you can CHANGE it for the better by regularly practicing gratitude.
A grateful mind is created and strengthened through consistent practice. Remember that the more you practice it, the more likely you are to see things to be grateful for.
And there are many ways in which to regularly practice gratitude. . .
How to Start Implementing the Power of Gratitude Into Your Life: 5 Simple Ways
There are many ways in which to quickly start bringing the power of gratitude into your life. And the BEST news is that these are super simple (and quick) practices (so there are no excuses!).
Here are my 5 favorite ways to practice gratitude.
#1: Start a Daily Gratitude Journal
If you’re serious about using the power of gratitude to transform how you think and live, then this is my favorite practice to do (because it’s daily). Here’s what to do:
- Take a couple of minutes every day to write down what you’re grateful for.
- Try to list at least 3 things every day.
- Don’t repeat yourself. Find something new every day.
- Be specific and explain WHY (don’t skip this step, as it’s where the real power of this gratitude practice comes into play).
And don’t forget to be grateful for the simple things (that you might otherwise take for granted) and for lessons learned.
For more specific instructions around how to start your daily gratitude practice, don’t forget to grab your free resource of 8 stress management & healthy mindset strategies here:
#2: Write a Letter of Gratitude
Practice expressing gratitude by writing a letter of gratitude to someone who’s impacted your life. I recommend doing this at least quarterly (and as much as once per month).
When writing your letter, be specific about what you’re grateful for and why. What impact have they had on you?
And then be sure to send it to them. Although you don’t have to send it to receive benefits from this exercise, you’ll get more out of it by sending it. Plus, you’ll be giving someone else a nice boost of confidence too!
#3: Conduct a Weekly Review and Reframe
Take 5 minutes at the end of each week to review your week. Pay special attention to:
- difficult situations,
- unexpected events, and
- mistakes and failures.
Once you’ve identified these, reframe them by identifying what you learned and/or how you’ve grown from the experience.
This last part is key (and is called reframing). Reframing a difficult experience to focus on what was learned and/or how you grew from the experience is a science-backed way to cultivate a strong, growth mindset.
Want to know more about reframing? Don’t forget to download your free Guide of 8 Proven Stress Management + Healthy Mindset Strategies here:
#4: Mindfully Meditate (Focusing on What You’re Grateful For)
Meditation is something that gets talked about a lot – often in respect of how to be more present, decrease stress and be more resilient. And it brings to mind sitting in silence while focusing on your breathing or a mantra of some sort.
But there are many ways in which to meditate – including doing a gratitude meditation.
A gratitude meditation is exactly what it sounds like. When meditating, make your focal point something (or someone) that you’re grateful for. Hone in on whatever that is and pay attention to how you feel, why you’re grateful for it, etc.
For a guided gratitude meditation, here’s one of my favorite to try.
#5: Thank Someone You Don’t (or Barely) Know
Whether you choose to look your morning barista in the eye and say “thank you” or thank a friendly stranger for holding the elevator, there are many ways in which to take time to thank people throughout the day. And it’s important to be thankful for these interactions – as it will increase the positive feelings you have for others (and even the world).
And then take that a step further by taking a moment to mentally be grateful for the interaction. This will increase your ability to be present and will make you feel more connected to others.
It’s Time To Go All-In On The Power of Gratitude
Here’s what you learned today:
- The many benefits of gratitude (physical, social and mental).
- That the true power of gratitude is in how it rewires your mind.
- 5 common gratitude myths.
- 5 simple ways to start practicing gratitude.
It’s time to start practicing gratitude so that you can experience the power of gratitude within your life. It won’t necessarily make life less hard, but it will make your life more enjoyable – even during hard times. By shifting your mindset into one of growth and learning, you’ll start to feel more satisfied with yourself and your life.
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to download your free Guide of 8 Stress Management + Healthy Mindset Strategies (that includes a simple gratitude practice) here: