Gratitude can Change Your Life – How to be Happier with this Simple Practice

Being grateful is something that is done by many, usually in response to gifts, compliments, or receiving something.

As the holiday season comes, we remember to give thanks and celebrate joy.

In these trying times though, many experience negative emotions, rightfully so, such as sadness, anxiety, or depression.

There are many things in life to appreciate, remember the sun will always rise – Photo by Pablo Heimplatz

However, research states that gratitude can have life-altering effects.

What is gratitude really and how can it improve your life?

Find out below.

What is Gratitude

Gratitude is the state of being thankful and showing appreciation.

This can be directed at a person, an event, a place, anything at all really.

It is being thankful for both the tangible and intangible.

You might feel grateful if someone helps you carry something or open the door for you.

Likewise, you might feel grateful the sun is shining and helping those succulents you just bought grow well.

How Can Gratitude make you Happier

We know that expressing gratitude is scientifically proven to drastically and permanently increase happiness, if you follow the practice.

Humans operate on what is called a hedonistic treadmill, meaning that there is generally a base level of happiness, already set as a constant.

Going to a party or the beach might cheer you up a bit more, but your level of happiness will return to its original amount soon after the event.

The use of gratitude has shown that base levels of joy can rise and mark a new happiness average, maintained by your body over time.

The Gratitude Experiment

Dr. Robert Emmons, a UC Davis psychology professor and author, has been experimenting with gratitude for decades.

He took 300 people and divided them into three groups, each of whom had to write daily lists.

One group would write things that they were thankful for, the other things that bothered them, and the last group would write about whatever they wanted.

Dr. Emmons found that the people who wrote about things they were thankful for had a much higher level of well-being than the other two groups.

Not only that, they had more energy during the day and slept better at night.

The simple act of writing down things for which they were grateful seemed to set their brains on for general wellness.

The Science Behind Gratitude

Science has emphatically shown that thankful people release neurotransmitters such as dopamine, responsible for feelings of relaxation and pleasure.

It also produces important changes in the biology of the brain, because when giving thanks, regions of the brain are activated that allows a greater understanding of the world.

It reduces stress, improves heart rate, and relieves physical and emotional pain.

Putting gratitude into practice can transform the way we think about our life in a positive sense and make us value more of what surrounds us (family, love, partner, health, work, etc.).

Being grateful is an exercise that we manage to develop with perseverance and dedication.

In time, it will become part of our belief system. It also anchors us in the present, makes us appreciate and enjoy things as they are.

Photo by Pundits

Ways to Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude on a day-to-day basis is the best way to create a habit!

There are many things to be grateful for, even if it is not always apparent.

For example: the air you breathe, the sun shining and warming the earth, your bed, the roof over your head, water to drink, your partner, your children, friends, the refrigerator, the stove, light, food, your heart, your legs, your hands, lungs, etc.

The list is endless, look around you and at your own person and start thanking.

Try some of the methods below and find which one suits you best.

Writing out Gratitude (Thank you notes)

In a notebook, write and express appreciation for all the things you already have.

Read this list and nurture the joy and appreciation you feel towards everything on it.

Write thank you notes to your loved ones and tell them.

Once in a while, make one for yourself.

Give Thanks with Words

Say words of appreciation out loud to yourself.

For example: “Thank you hands and fingers because you allow me to write this book.”

Thank everything that fills your life with vibrancy and color.

Give thanks to objects that serve you and give an important service.

Give thanks to nature that nourishes and provides beauty and peace.

Thank Mentally

It is enough to mentally feel the appreciation and joy towards something or someone.

This helps you focus on the bright side and what matters most.

Count Your Blessings

Take time, either daily or weekly, to make a list of all the things you are grateful for.

Make sure to read this list, especially when you’re feeling down.

The Takeaway

Practicing gratitude and giving thanks for the things you already have can help increase your baseline level of happiness.

Giving thanks reduces stress, increases joy, and generally makes you and everyone around you happier.

Different practices like meditation, breathing exercises, and others can be simple ways to improve your mental wellbeing.

Health starts from the inside out!

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