Here’s some obvious science: our minds don’t function nearly as well when we are tired and stressed. Less obvious, however, is that practicing gratitude can improve mental wellbeing as much as diet, exercise and good sleeping habits. Here are some examples of this principle in action:
Gratitude elevates mood. Many studies have shown that people who frequently practice gratitude (in measurable activities such as journal-keeping) report lower levels of depression and anxiety than those who do not create moments of thankfulness in their day. Practiced gratitude can make us feel happy in the present moment by helping us focus on what we have, rather than what we lack.
Gratitude promotes proactivity. We can’t always control feelings of happiness or sadness – emotional experiences are similar to weather patterns, rising and falling with infinite variation. Gratitude, however, is a choice we can always make, no matter the weather – by developing thankfulness in our thoughts we discover a proactive way to move forward, even when we’re feeling “stuck.”
Gratitude restores our connections with others. Part of living a happy and productive life involves sharing experiences with others. Gratitude strengthens our connections with people by helping us see how lucky we are to have even one good friend or teacher in our lives – in turn encouraging our own potential for being a positive influence in someone else’s day.
Gratitude shifts our perceptions towards the positive. Gratitude is a habit, and in modern life this habit is becoming less and less common. With instantaneous access to food, drink, and entertainment (to name a few basic human needs), we are quickly becoming a culture in which the words “thank you” aren’t spoken as often. Finding ways to be sincerely grateful for the common blessings in life can re-establish our natural sense of gratitude for our existence in this wonderful world (along with making us feel a bit happier!).