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Tis’ the season of giving in the United States as we approach Thanksgiving later this week so there’s no better week to talk through the power of gratitude. There’s lots to be thankful for and there are science-backed reasons to express gratitude. Here are a few benefits to remember this thankful Thursday.

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“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

William Arthur Ward

The Power of Gratitude in 6 Key Benefits

1. A gratitude practice can enhance your happiness level

According to the 2014 study by Watkins, Uhder, & Pichinevskiy, having a gratitude practice can improve your level of subjective well-being, or more plainly put, your happiness level. There are many ways to embrace a gratitude attitude but my favorite is to keep a gratitude list.

Each day, good or bad, I write down 3 things I’m grateful for. These can be small little details or perhaps a big moment that happened in your day. And as a bonus, once you have your list going, you can look back on a bad day to see all the things you’re grateful for and boost your mood in the moment too!

2. Enhance your sleep quality

That’s right, gratitude can even improve your sleep quality! This improvement in sleep quality is partly linked to having a practice before bed. One nighttime routine could be answering gratitude journal prompts before bed. Gather your journal and answer these questions:

  • What was the best thing that happened to you today?
  • Name someone that made you smile.
  • Identify one reason to be grateful for a bad thing that happened today.
  • What small things made you happy today?
  • List 3 reasons you’re grateful for yourself or something that you did today.
3. It shifts your focus from the negative

As human beings we’re programmed towards the negative and there’s even an official term for it – the negativity bias. What this means is that when presented equal amounts of both negative and positive stimulus, our brains are wired to put more emphasis on the bad than the good. Look, this was great long ago when we needed to be primed towards the negative to survive. But it doesn’t do us as much good these days.

Have you ever had a day that went overall pretty well but all you could think about is that one embarrassing thing you did? Or singular negative conversation you had? That’s the negativity bias in action. But hope is not lost – there’s something you can do to counteract this effect. For every negative stimulus you encounter, think about at least 5 positive ones. Relationship researcher John Gottman claims this ratio in his book, ‘Why Marriages Succeed or Fail”.

I find myself slipping into the negativity bias after a “bad day” and on these days, I walk myself through an exercise in the evening. I ask myself, how many bad things actually happened? And then I follow-up with, what good things happened? Oftentimes I find it was really just one bad event but my day overall went well. This is a great add-on to a nightly gratitude practice!

4. Improve your physical and mental health

Gratitude can positively impact your health in many ways. To name a few, “it can lower blood pressure, improve immune function […] reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders, and is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide” according to UC Davic psychology professor, Robert A. Emmons. In fact, those who identify as feeling grateful also report less aches and pains then their less grateful peers.

With all of these health benefits, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that expressing gratitude can help you live longer overall. Not to mention, it can improve your mood! (Watkins, Woodward, Stone, Kolts, 2003)

5. Improve your relationships with others

Gratitude can improve your relationships whether they are romantic, platonic, or professional. In romantic relationships, communicating gratitude can heighten the perceived strength of the relationship. Generally speaking, telling others you’re thankful for them can increase you’re likelihood to help them, fostering a better relationship. A few studies at Berkeley indicated friendships can benefit from this practice by improving how we see others, further adding to our desire to help.

But it doesn’t stop there. The power of gratitude extends into the workplace as well. It can impact our job satisfaction, give us higher perception of support from our organization, and it can make us feel more appreciated for the work we do. Even so, I’m sure many of us could agree we deal with difficult people at times; so how do we navigate challenging relationships where gratitude can be harder to find?

One way to cultivate this grateful feeling in your relationships with others is to try a gratitude meditation. A love and kindness meditation can be an excellent one to try out, especially if you have coworkers, family, or acquaintances that you don’t have a great relationship with. The idea is to meditate while thinking of someone close to you that is easy to love, someone you have strong positive feelings for. Once you’ve had a chance to really feel how that affects your body, you move into sharing that same positive feeling with someone you feel neutral about, oftentimes an acquaintance. Lastly, you move into thinking about someone you have a challenging relationship with. Extend your love and kindness to this last person as best you can.

We can all be thankful for friends and family this time of year but remember, it doesn’t have to stop when the season ends.

6. Be better prepared for stress

Who wouldn’t love to reduce their stress levels? The higher your level of gratitude, the lower your level of stress, according to a 2008 study. Not to mention that when stressors do arise, having an already established gratitude practice can also make you more resilient such that you bounce back faster from the stressors.

Your morning routine plays a heavy role in shaping how your day will go so consider starting off your morning in a way that helps minimize how you feel stress for your day. Repeating a gratitude affirmation or reading a gratitude poem can set your day off on the right foot. Here are a few affirmations I like:

  • I am grateful for the amazing people I have in my life.
  • I have the energy I need to see my day through.
  • I am grateful for my home and my job.
  • I am aware of my gifts and am excited to put them to use today.
  • I am thankful for this day and whatever it may bring.

Thankful For You!

Lastly I want to express my own gratitude to all of our fellow coaches, clients, and all of you readers. Melissa, Sarah, and I set off on this endeavor to create the Best Life Coach Collective about six months ago and are touched by the response we’ve gotten so far. We have some exciting plans and can’t wait to share more with you on this journey. Thank you for being here with us 🙂

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