Gratitude is one of those things that we really don’t think about too much. We are so used to complaining about our lives and putting our focus on what we don’t like in our experience. Your mind feels very justified in doing that, and as such, you feel entitled to feel like crud about your life because not every single aspect of it is to your preference. We tend not to appreciate something fully until we lose it, almost lose it, or experience something terrible that makes us realize how good things are.
This is just how it goes sometimes, but we don’t have to wait to get to that point to see all we have to be grateful for. You want more out of life and it’s cool…we are here to create. You don’t like certain things and you feel bad about them…totally understandable. But, we have to realize we have a choice when it comes to how we view our life and the perspectives we adopt. Our mental and emotional state makes a huge difference in our day to day experience, and influences us on countless levels, from how stressed we feel to our physical health and well-being.
WHAT WE FOCUS ON EXPANDS
Where we put our attention primarily is a huge factor in shaping our day to day experience. The more we notice the ‘bad’, the more ‘bad’ we seem to create for ourselves. The more we notice the good, the more good that seems to show up in our lives. Regularly practicing gratitude…as in actually feeling it, and not just giving lip service, creates a space for even more things for which to be grateful to make their way into your life.
When you really move into a space of gratitude for even just a few minutes, everything can change. The problems that are troubling don’t seem so bad anymore. You can feel better physically…aches, pains, and tension can start to transform as they are primarily caused by stress and other mental yuck. You see, it is simply a matter of perspective, and you more easily choose empowering, positive ones.
Regularly expressing gratitude can improve your physical health in many ways. Several studies have found that this offering of thanks has been found to improve cholesterol and blood pressure and help you get a good night’s sleep among other physical health benefits. Psychologist and gratitude researcher Dr. Robert Emmons states people who regularly express gratitude tend to exercise more, smoke and drink less, eat better and take their medications properly.
People who express gratitude are found to report less pain and being in overall better health than other people. One practice many people who express gratitude regularly use to get a better night’s sleep is jot down a few things for which to be grateful before turning in for the night. Expressing gratitude seems to have big implications for physical well-being… it doesn’t take a lot of time and it’s free. Not a bad tool to have in your arsenal.
Who couldn’t stand to be more mentally healthy? Well, gratitude can help get you there for sure, according to several studies over the last few years. It really isn’t that surprising as gratitude can help us reduce myriad poisonous emotions that sabotage our well-being at every turn. Here are just a few of the awesome findings. In 2012 researchers from the University of Kentucky found that people who expressed gratitude were less likely to experience negative emotion, the desire for revenge and the like when people behaved unkindly to them. They had increased empathy towards others.
A study published in 2014 in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found gratitude increased self-esteem in athletes. Other research suggests gratitude reduces the tendency the compare ourselves to others, which has gone into overdrive thanks to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram…we now have the ability to compare ourselves to dozens of people within mere minutes. Not good. Gratitude may enhance resilience and make it easier to cope with traumatic events as evidenced by a 2006 study on Vietnam War vets and post-traumatic stress disorder, and a 2003 study about the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Practicing gratitude is not something that takes a huge chunk of time and energy. You can do it in any moment, whether you are stuck in traffic on your morning commute or waiting in line at the grocery store. Right at the start of your day would probably be a great way to get things off on the right foot. We are used to focusing on what we don’t want and like, and it can take a bit to foster this habit, but it will get easier over time. You just have to remember to do it.