It's been an entire year since the coronavirus hit the earth, and the world as we knew it almost ceased to exist. At the beginning of the lockdown, most people found it very difficult to cope with the situation. However, as things went on, people more or less learned to survive through the crisis.
But is that all you want? To survive?
Most people are already aware that we may never go back to being normal – at least not in the near future. Yet, most of us are still finding it hard to adjust to the new normal truly. Yes, we have learned to manage the situation, but we now start to accept it and try to find happiness within.
How Can Practicing Gratitude Make You Happier?
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia. Depending on the context, Gratia can mean gratefulness, grace, or graciousness. In practice, however, gratitude can encompass all of these meanings. A grateful appreciation for anything an individual receives – tangible or intangible – is known as gratitude. It enables people to acknowledge the goodness in their lives.
Through the process of showing gratitude, people tend to recognize that the source of that goodness – at least partially – lies outside of themselves. Consequently, people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals, whether to other people, nature, or even higher power.
Psychology Behind Practicing Gratitude
Saying "thank you" isn't just a sign of good manners. It has practical benefits for your mental and physical health.
A study in 2020 showed that practising gratitude regularly can help ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety. It was also noted in an older study from 2003 that gratitude was linked to better moods.
These and other similar studies prove that practising gratitude can effectively increase positive feelings and contribute to a sense of better well-being.
In addition to that, practising gratitude can help you cultivate a more optimistic mindset. There are several benefits of living life with an optimistic mindset, including healthy ageing. However, it isn't always possible to remain naturally optimistic – especially during these uncertain times.
If it is difficult for you to naturally maintain an optimistic outlook on life, practising gratitude can help you achieve that. According to this study in 2003, regularly practising gratitude for ten weeks resulted in the participants feeling more optimistic about their present and future.
Physical Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
Improving your mental health is not the only way practising gratitude benefits you.
Since gratitude contributes to an overall sense of well-being, the lower levels of stress enhance the body's immune response. This 2004 research review reported that increased mental well-being could improve your body's defence against illness. Another study in 2017 also showed signs of a reduced risk of heart failure among people who practised gratitude.
Overall, improved mental and physical health can significantly contribute to your overall happiness.
Other Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
Aside from increasing happiness, practising gratitude also provide the following benefits.
Opens Doors For Healthier Relationships
Acknowledging people's contributions can lead to better opportunities for starting new friendships or even relationships. Saying thank you to that new classmate who held the door for you or sending a thank you note to that colleague who helped you with a difficult project will not just make them feel appreciated but will also likely enable them to pursue an ongoing camaraderie with you. Even if it doesn't bloom into a long-term friendship or relationship, they'll at least have a good image of you in mind.
Helps You Sleep Better At Night
Maintaining a gratitude journal and writing in it for 10 to 15 minutes every night before sleeping can improve your sleep quality. You don't even need to spend hours writing in your journal. Just jotting down whatever you're thankful for – no matter how small – can help you be more appreciative of your life and help you sleep a little better each night.
It has been observed that practising gratitude can reduce one's need for social comparisons. When you appreciate what you have, you start caring less about what other people have. As a result, you become less resentful toward people who may have better jobs, more money, or better social circles than you. Since this social comparison contributes to a lack of self-esteem, reducing this resentment can directly lead to improved self-confidence.
Keeps Suicidal Thoughts At Bay
This may not apply to everyone, but it is worth mentioning. One of the main reasons people tend to have suicidal thoughts – or attempt suicide – is that they tend to believe that they have nothing to live for. However, practising gratitude can help them open their eyes to things they weren't appreciative of before.
It may be difficult to try to think about good things while you're having suicidal thoughts, but just forcing yourself to write one or two things in your gratitude journal can have tremendous benefits over time and protect you against your own weakest moments.
Practising gratitude may not fix your problems, but it can help you maintain a better mindset about your day-to-day, as well as overall life. So start practising gratitude now, and see how it improves your life within a few weeks.
As someone once said, "Gratitude turns what we have into enough."