The psychological and physical benefits of gratitude – how to combat your bad days

Gratitude isn’t just about saying thank you; it’s also about keeping space for appreciation when considering all you have in life. It’s acknowledging when we have things others don’t, even if they aren’t ideal. It means being kind to others and demonstrating empathy. It entails selecting optimism over a pessimistic or victim mentality.

Some think that gratitude is the basis of other good qualities, and it benefits our mental health as well as our physical wellbeing. This foundation is the wellspring for abundance.

“First, it’s an affirmation of goodness,” writes psychologist Robert Emmons. “We affirm that there are good things in the world; gifts and benefits we've received... The second aspect of gratitude is to figure out where this goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as coming from outside ourselves.

But not only is gratitude an essential characteristic of a kind or loving person, it is also scientifically proven to create more joy, less depression and anxiety, and to have lasting effects on the brain.

In all of the studies done on gratitude by Dr. Emmons and other scientists, here are 12 of the many benefits of practicing gratitude:

  1. Stress resistance
  2. Stronger immune system
  3. Lower blood pressure
  4. Better sleep
  5. More positive emotions
  6. More enthusiasm
  7. More joy and pleasure in everyday things
  8. More optimism
  9. More compassion and forgiveness towards others
  10. Less loneliness and stronger relationships
  11. Higher sense of self-worth
  12. Ability to be happy in the moment

So, want to be happier, less depressed, and keep yourself from complaining so much? Let’s learn how to recognize the good and then give thanks.

Practicing gratitude for a healthier, happier life

Gratitude, like many other things in life, requires some effort. We all realize that gratitude doesn’t come naturally. If it did, we wouldn’t need a full month devoted to “National Gratitude Month.” To put things in perspective, it might help to think about the opposite of gratitude, which is the state of being ungrateful, unappreciative, thankless, inconsiderate, rude, thoughtless, or disregarding what you have.

Fortunately, gratitude is a muscle that develops with practice; once we start to strengthen our “gratitude muscle,” it will have long-term consequences on our daily lives. Here are three exercises proposed by scientists and psychologists to help you foster a grateful disposition…

First, recognizing the good

“Gratitude begins with recognizing the good that comes your way.” – Alan Morinis, ‘Every Day, Holy Day’

A glass of water, a sunny afternoon, salt on your table… from the mundane things we experience every day, to the more unusual or even unpleasant experiences like losing a client, getting sick, or getting a last-minute cancelation for a dinner party you were preparing for; recognizing the good is more than just a feeling, it is a trait of a grateful lifestyle.

Mother Theresa talked about how grateful she was to the people she was helping, the sick and dying because they enabled her to grow and deepen her spirituality. When Jewish Rabbi Manechem Mendel was ready to get new shoes, he would first wrap his old shoes in newspaper, to show his gratitude for them.

Second, say “thank you” out loud

From childhood, most of us are taught to say “please” and “thank you”, but this practice is not as common among adults.

In a study by the John Templeton Foundation, the most common thing that Americans are grateful for is family. And while 90% of Americans report being grateful for their families, only about 45% say “thanks” aloud on a regular basis.

If half of us don’t even thank our own families out loud, most likely we aren’t too keen on saying “thank you” out loud for much else. The art of gratitude is more than common courtesy, and there are no bounds to who, what, or how you express it.

In another study by Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, people were reporting that saying “thank you” out loud not only made them smile for a moment, but also “made their whole day glorious.”

“We kept this in mind during our analysis of Thnx4 posts, and something caught our eye: Many more people reported a stronger positive impact on their day when they had actually said “thank you” to the person to whom they felt grateful.”

Third, try gratitude journaling

There are several methods that scientists and psychologists have used to study the long-term effects of gratitude, and one of those is called gratitude journaling.

In the same study by the Greater Good Science Center, the longer that people would regularly journal their gratitude, the more they felt a positive impact, reporting that they felt less lonely and more satisfied with life in general.

Many people journal publicly on their social media profiles in the month of November. But remember, this is a lifelong journey to strengthen your gratitude muscle, so you can journal publicly or privately, any time of year. It is recommended to not only write down what you are grateful for, but also how you feel after expressing it!

We’re so grateful for our families!

At Super Kicks Karate, we are blessed to have had wonderful families. If you would like to learn more about our methods here at Super Kicks, check out our class specials!

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