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  • November 20, 2021 4 min read

    Do you ever find time to pause for the day and think about what you’re grateful for? And no, we’re not talking about a reaction to a moment that leads you to feel thankful. Instead, we’re referring to a conscious effort: sitting down and really thinking about the things that make life worth living. If not, don’t worry! You’re not the only one who doesn’t do such a thing.

    According to Berkeley, gratitude doesn’t come easily to some people, and research suggests that our brains, genes, and personalities may play a part as to why. This, of course, doesn’t mean it’s impossible for us to be thankful for anything. It may just take some work—and by work, we mean a gratitude journal! 

    If you're looking at being more grateful about certain things or life in general, then you’ve come to the right place. In today’s article, we want to talk about the amazing ways gratitude can positively impact the quality of your life. If you’ve been wanting to start a gratitude journal, this is the sign to do it and here are the reasons why!

     

    1. Gratitude can improve mental health. 

    In a study to ascertain whether gratitude was beneficial to people struggling with mental health concerns, college students who were just about to start their counseling services were recruited by Berkeley and divided into three different groups.

    One group was asked to write a letter of gratitude to another person each week for three weeks, while the second was asked to write about their negative experiences, specifically their deepest thoughts and feelings about it. The last group was not assigned a writing assignment. Here are the results: 

    The college students who wrote gratitude letters reported better health compared to the other two groups not just after four weeks, but also twelve weeks after the writing exercises ended. Now it’s of note that before this particular study, gratitude had only seemed beneficial to well-functioning individuals since prior research hadn’t been conducted with people suffering from mental health challenges. 

    What these results show though, is the fact that gratitude is beneficial to both well-adjusted individuals as well as those who struggle with mental health concerns, and is a great addition to counseling even when the gratitude practice is brief. 

    You don’t even have to send the letter to feel the positive effects of being grateful. Simply write them down and, during days you’re unable to find something to be grateful about, you can go back to these entries to remind yourself that there are great people around you who you’re thankful for. 

     

    2. Being more grateful makes us happier. 

    An article by Harvard talks about several studies that correlate gratitude with feelings of happiness. In a particular study conducted by psychologists Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, participants who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives after ten weeks as opposed to their counterparts who were not asked to write the same thing. 

    In another study, psychologist Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania and leading researcher in this field tested the impact different positive psychology interventions had on 411 people. One of the interventions was writing and personally delivering “a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness.”

    Out of all other interventions that were part of this study, it was this assignment that had the greatest impact, with participants displaying “a huge increase in happiness scores.” The benefits lasted up to a month.

    Here’s a great list of TED Talks from Positive Psychology for more perspectives on the very real link between happiness and gratitude. 

     

    3. Gratitude has an impact on physical health. 

    Being more grateful affects us not just on a mental and emotional level, but physically too! There are studies that have looked into the connection between gratitude and physical health related to hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions, stress and inflammation, pain perception, and even sleep. 

    According to one study, keeping a gratitude journal showed improvements in diastolic blood pressure. In another study where participants were asked to keep the same for a period of fourteen days, people reported fewer  headaches and stomach aches, reduced congestion, and even clearer skin! Focusing on what individuals were grateful for before bedtime every night showed an increase in their pre-sleep calmness in yet another study

    The mere fact that gratitude helps us become more positive and optimistic means that we’re more likely to engage in activities that keep us healthy too, regardless if it’s mental, emotional, or physical. If you’re struggling with switching to a healthier lifestyle, then keeping a gratitude journal is worth considering.

     

    Conclusion

    Expressing gratitude is not just about saying thank you—it’s definitely more than that. It’s something far greater, something that has a positive effect on not just individuals but relationships and groups too. Being grateful makes you feel good, and that great feeling is passed on to others, which fosters even more positivity. And while building an attitude of gratitude may take some work, you can begin in small ways like starting a gratitude journal today.  

    Off the top of your head, what are you grateful for today? Share it in the comments below, and together, let’s work on being more thankful for all the amazing people and things around us! 

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