How to Maintain an Attitude of Gratitude – Reasons to be Being Thankful Daily

Whether you celebrated Thanksgiving or not, it’s nice to have a reminder of what to be thankful for. There’s a lot we can learn from coming together with family and friends and giving thanks, appreciating the year and what’s to come. Adopting an attitude of gratitude can be a life-changing habit that rewires the mind.

two people in an attitude of gratitude with shirts that say thankful on them
Being grateful is a habit you can nurture – source

What is an attitude of gratitude and how does it work? Are there any actual, scientifically proven benefits and if so, how do you do it? While it may sound simple, being grateful doesn’t always come naturally.

Find out the answers to all these questions and more!

What is an Attitude of Gratitude

An attitude of gratitude is a state of being thankful. This can be for anything, from yourself, to things around you, to people. Though we may say thank you by default, actually feeling gratitude and appreciation is not that common.

Being grateful is like an affirmation of good in the world. It is acknowledging what you have and truly feeling thankful it is in your life. An aspect of gratitude is recognizing things to be grateful for within ourselves, and externally. We might be grateful for our hands, our kindness, and our dedication to a workout routine, or we might look externally. This means feeling grateful for the sources of goodness outside of use, like our environment, people we care for, or even higher power.

The Science Behind Gratitude

As a scientist at heart, I care about knowing there is research and evidence behind what I’m doing. From an evolutionary standpoint, gratitude may have evolved to strengthen bonds between people and increase support and relationships. 

This is because gratitude increases our willingness to help and be helped. For our purpose, however, it’s important to note the changes gratitude can cause in the brain and in the body.

How Gratitude Changes the Brain

One study showed that the phrase thank you increases activity in unique parts of the brain, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). These areas are linked to emotions, feel-good chemicals, morals, empathy, and interpersonal bonding.

This means gratitude, while affecting your reward pathway, is more about bonding, social connection, and emotions. Another study found similar effects, with increases in life outlook, positivity, and emotional regulation. The study found these effects to last for months after the experiment was concluded too.

How Gratitude Changes the Body

This other study found physical health benefits to gratitude. Individuals who were grateful ahs lower blood pressure, and better stress response. Higher gratitude helps regulate cholesterol and indicates better kidney function. 

This study also found an increase in cells that repair the body and heart.

Benefits Behind Being Thankful

Here is a simplified list of ways gratitude can improve your life.

  • Increased heart health
  • Reduced stress
  • Better emotional regulation
  • Increased empathy
  • Increased positivity
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Increased moral judgment
  • Increased willingness to help others
  • Regulated cholesterol
  • Potentially improved kidney function

How to Practice an Attitude of Gratitude

So, convinced to start practicing an attitude of gratitude? Same. It is easier than it sounds. You don’t have to be in a constant state of thankfulness. Gratitude is more intentional.

Make it a habit by incorporating it throughout the day. Maybe make an alarm for every 2 hours so you remember to pause and take a moment to be in an attitude of gratitude.

Write thank you notes when someone does something kind, say thank you before a meal or before drinking. Take a walk in nature and appreciate that we are on a planet with perfect conditions to support life.

You can further expand on the habit by getting a journal just for gratitude, where you write what you are grateful for daily. Try a gratitude-based meditation, or take a few deep breaths and think about mindfully appreciating your lungs.

There are countless ways to incorporate gratitude, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Quick Tips for Gratitude

Here are some ways to incorporate gratitude into your life easily!

Mornings and Nights

Just like affirmations, practicing gratitude in the morning when you first wake up primes the brain to take note of things that make you happy. 

Wake up and feel thankful for your rest, for the roof over your head, for the bed under your body. Take a couple of seconds to feel and appreciate it.

Say Thanks Out Loud 

Saying thanks out loud lets your mind hear the gratitude in your life. This allows you to process it emotionally.

Take Time to Feel it

Give yourself time to feel the emotions. What does gratitude feel like? Don’t take things for granted. Truly take the time to acknowledge the things in life that make you feel good, content, or safe.

Often, we forget that even the sun shining or rain falling from the sky is something to be grateful for.

Don’t Compare Yourself

If you have the resources to view this page, you are already miles ahead of some people in life, but this shouldn’t be the root of thankfulness. While you can acknowledge and feel grateful for your circumstance, don’t get into the habit of comparing yourself to others. If you think about what you have that others do not have, you might start to think about what you don’t have that others do. This can lead to envy. 

Instead, appreciate the simple things. You don’t need to buy something to feel happy or grateful. Appreciate the sun, nature, your friends, family, or yourself.

The Takeaway

Being thankful can become a way of life that improves health, both mentally and physically. Start making appreciation a habit by adopting an attitude of gratitude. This can mean setting time aside each day for appreciation, writing down what you’re thankful for in a journal, verbally saying and feeling thanks, or meditating on the feeling of gratitude.

An attitude of gratitude can tune your mind into appreciating and feeling happy about the things in your life, both internally and externally. This can help you take note of everything you have to be thankful for, which in turn rewires the mind to be more positive.

Remember, health starts from within! Mental changes may come easier if we take care of our bodies as well. Like a cycle, feeling good mentally can lead to better physical decisions like drinking a healthy smoothie or going for a walk. Vise versa, fueling your body with good ingredients and supporting gut health can let your mind flourish with clarity. Since about 90% of serotonin, the happiness chemical, is made in the gut, it is important to support gut health to increase mental and physical health!

Practice self-care, support the dimensions of wellness, and watch wellbeing increase exponentially!

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