Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Every day there are wonderful new insights into the human mind and the way we work, love, play, behave, relate, think and feel.
Over the past two decades, the understanding of positive emotions within psychology became a study focus, and the experience and therapeutic benefits of gratitude have been better understood.
The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to consciously notice and reflect upon the things they're thankful for, experience more positive emotions, sleep better, feel more alive and express more compassion and kindness.
It’s almost like the domino effect - the more gratitude we feel, the more we’ll act in a kind way towards others, which will in turn, encourage their feelings of gratitude and they show kindness to others.
There’s a lot of scientific evidence out there that shows the importance of gratitude and how it has a positive impact on our emotional and mental well-being.
So, what are gratitudes and how do they work?
Essentially, your ‘gratitudes’ are the things you are grateful for: the great things that happened that day, the people that have impacted you in a positive way, the life that you lead and the privilege with which you conduct it.
Psychologist Karen Young, MA in Gestalt Therapy states: “The brain can’t tell the difference between an actual experience and a visualisation so calling on a positive experience after it’s happened doubles the feel-good in your brain. The idea is that after 21 days it will become a habit and it will change the way your brain looks at and receives the world.”
Gratitude rewires our brain, therefore, we become more likely to focus on the positives in the world, rather than the negatives.
Why are they so important?
Stephanie White, Founder of By The Way Creative, said: “There’s loads of great reasons to recognise the things you are grateful for and it’s really therapeutic. Taking 5 or 10 minutes out of your evening to write down the highlights of your day is an utterly relaxing experience. It encourages you to chill-out and boosts your mood and it does wonders for your mental health. Taking stock of the good in your life helps to keep depression and anxiety at bay. You can remind yourself that ‘hey, my life is actually pretty good!’
She continues: “It helps to alleviate stress, because lists, in general, make you feel in control. When life is getting on top of you, a simple list of everything that’s going well is a good way to relax your spinning mind. It encourages an abundance mindset. Living with an abundance mindset means that you’re always satisfied that there is enough. Enough good, enough money, enough happiness. Keeping track of the things that make you happy is a sure fire way to produce a healthy abundance mindset.”
What does the research say?
Thorough research has been undertaken by psychologists and neurologists to support the claim that gratitudes can impact your mind positively.
Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, shows that simply keeping a gratitude journal and regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we’re thankful, can significantly increase well‑being and life satisfaction.
Top tips on gratitudes and how to get started
Worry is bound to be a strong and common emotion in the current situation, and it can be draining, so here’s some thoughts and tips on how to ensure this doesn't become overwhelming, how to lean into your energy and how to focus on positivity.
Rhiannon Bates, PR & business coach and founder of Garnet PR has shared some examples of things we can write down that we are grateful for: “Sometimes it's hard to think of positive things when we feel low, so here are some ideas - Safety and warmth, our business and our customers, family and friends, our health and the health of those we love. Even things like food in our pantry or fridge and the fact we can go outside and enjoy the countryside. Sunny days, our pets and the digital world that opens up so many opportunities for us”.
The trick is to think of the small things and be grateful for them, it's not always about the massive milestones, goals or events. Sometimes the biggest things to be grateful for are the small things in our everyday life. It’s about finding beauty in the simple things.
Amy Crumpton, Founder of Social Cactus Coaching, NLP practitioner and mindset coach feels strongly about the importance of gratitudes. She advised: “Begin with a list of things you are grateful for today, 3-5 different ones, then each day, add another to the list. It doesn’t have to be complicated, I find the bottom tier of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a great place to start - being grateful for food, shelter and rest.”
The benefits are contagious
It’s amazing how the simple practice of gratitude can bring a host of different benefits - both emotionally and mentally, and science has confirmed this.
All in all, gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of constantly reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can't feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met.
Gratitude helps us refocus on what we have instead of what we lack, and manifests positive feelings and thoughts that are contagious, bringing yet more good into our lives.