The Benefits of Gratitude

What are the benefits of Gratitude? “The benefits of gratitude are many and profound. Being grateful is shown to improve both physical and mental health, psychological well-being and attitude, and our relationships with others. Practising gratitude has even been shown to rewire our brains for the better—it is a truly powerful life-changing tool.” – Carla Clark, PhD.  

That is why gratitude meditations and gratitude journalling is such an important part of my Connect with Horses mindfulness meditation retreats. When I think about the benefits of gratitude, three benefits come to mind immediately:

Gratitude makes you happier

Dr. Robert Emmons – who has been studying gratitude for almost ten years and is considered by many to be the world’s leading authority on gratitude – is author of the book, “Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier”. The information in this book is based on research involving thousands of people conducted by a number of different researchers around the world. One of the things these studies show is that practising gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%.

Gratitude makes you healthier

Dr Robert Emmons also said; “Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviours like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations”.

Gratitude makes you live longer

Grateful people may tend to live longer lives. In a longitudinal study, Catholic nuns who expressed gratitude, happiness, and positive emotions in their earlier years were found to live an average of up to ten years longer than their peers who did not express gratitude. Danner, D.D., D. Snowden, and W. V. Friesen. “Positive Emotions in Early Life and Longevity: Findings From the Nun Study.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, (2001): 804-813

Gratitude has many extensive and varied benefits. Dr Emmons have written an excellent article summing up his research on the benefits of gratitude that you can read HERE.

Gratitude Prompt: For which aspect of your health are you most grateful? This morning, I woke up with a full-blown head cold. Headache, fever, muscle pains, blocked nose, sore throat, burning eyes and the overwhelming conviction that getting out of bed is a very bad idea. After feeling sorry for myself for a while, I decided to try and figure out what there is to be grateful about the situation that I find myself in. Firstly, I do not HAVE to get out of bed. My wonderful husband will do my morning chores without complaining, until I feel better. Secondly, some genius had discovered paracetamol and I just so happen to have some in the bath room cabinet. Thirdly, oranges are in season and we bought a fresh bagful yesterday, so freshly squeezed orange juice is a definite possibility. Fourthly, it is a head cold, not pneumonia, which means I could be back on my feet as soon as tomorrow morning, if I take good care of myself today. Fifthly, I do not suffer from any disease that compromises my immune system, so my body is working full out to get rid of the intruders. I was strong and healthy yesterday, I exercise regularly and watch my diet, so I have good reserves of vitamins and minerals to fight this infection. I am definitely starting to feel better. I am actually considering getting up, putting on my dressing gown and short riding boots (imagine it) and going out to claim the 6 sympathetic horse hugs that I know are waiting for me not too far from the kitchen door.

Pay it forward: Join the Gratitude Project by using Thnx4.org. Thnx4.org provides a guided two-week exercise designed by experts to make gratitude a daily practice. Every day, users get tips on enhancing gratitude and are able to keep a private journal and say “thnx” publicly through Facebook, Twitter, or email. In the end, they find out how 14 days of gratitude awareness affected their mood and health—and they are able to read expressions of gratitude from other people in their community. By joining Thnx4.org, you will help scientists research data that will be used to study the causes, effects, and meaning of gratitude. Using Thnx4.org will not only be hugely beneficial to you, but you will advance the research being done on Gratitude, helping to answer questions such as:
-Does a moment of thankfulness statistically predict the likelihood of a pay-it-forward response?
-Which gender is more likely to spread gratitude?
-Do men tend to feel grateful for different things than women?
-Does gratitude practice have any discernible racial, ethnic, or regional variations?
-Does gratitude mitigate the effect of burnout in health care settings?
-Does there tend to be an ebb and flow of gratitude over our lifetimes?

Gratitude Video: Robert Emmons: Benefits of Gratitude. In this video, Dr Emmons discusses different ways to cultivate gratitude as well as the physical, social and psychological benefits of gratitude and keeping a gratitude journal.

Gratitude Books: There are many custom-made gratitude journals to choose from. One of my favourites is: The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude by Sarah Ban Breathnach, companion to Sarah’s book Simple Abundance. This beautiful journal provides a place to record daily moments of gratitude while offering insight via inspirational quotes like this one from Henry Van Dyke: “Gratitude is twofold–love coming to visit us and love running out to greet a welcome guest.”

Your turn now. What do you feel grateful for today? What can you do TODAY to put that feeling of gratefulness into action?

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