When Gratitude Gives Back: 5 Reasons to Practice Gratitude

The holiday season ushers in a time of gratitude and giving. We reflect on what we’re thankful for, what the year has held, and what’s coming in the near and distant future. This practice of gratitude is timely and seasonal – but it doesn’t have to be.

What does that mean? The practice of giving thanks and adopting a spirit of gratitude is a year-long, daily, even moment-by-moment pursuit that can bring unexpected benefits to us. It’s a practice that gives back in many ways – emotionally, physically, socially.

Here are a few reasons why we should consider extending this season of gratefulness year-round, and three ways you can start today.

5 Reasons to Practice Gratitude

  1. Research supports the many benefits of gratitude in all areas of our life: health, career, social, emotional, and personality. It doesn’t just sound like a good thing to do. Dozens of scientific studies have examined the effects of practicing gratitude, and we know it makes a positive difference.
  2. When we focus more on what we have, we focus less on what we want. This isn’t always easy, especially when we’re in a season with very little. The things we’re grateful for can be simple and small. It’s the practice of bringing awareness to what we have that changes our perspective. If we’re spending more positive energy on appreciation, we have less negative energy to spend on complaining.
  3. Practicing gratitude makes us happier. It’s true – when we focus more on what we’re grateful for, research confirms we’re happier overall. The more we practice gratitude, the easier it becomes, and they longer we’re able to maintain it. Our “gratitude muscle” grows stronger and over time, it becomes a part of our natural disposition.
  4. It makes us healthier. Studies have shown gratitude helps improve overall health, our immune system, sleep, and energy over time. The physical and emotional benefits have lasting effects, like being more relaxed and resilient, being more likely to exercise, and even potentially living longer.
  5. It makes us more pleasant to be around. When we express thanks and radiate positivity, we’re kinder, more pleasant, and more appreciative of others. It encourages positive social interaction and helps cultivate positive relationships.  

3 Ways You Can Start Practicing Gratitude Today

Consider incorporating gratitude into your life today. Here are three things to keep in mind to make the most of your gratitude practice.

  1. Start a gratitude journal. Begin by setting aside a time every day – you only need a couple minutes – to reflect on what you are grateful for. It can be in the morning, on your lunch break, walking the dog, or before bed. Write it down. You can use a notebook, an email to yourself, or even a note in your phone. Recording what we’re grateful for reinforces the practice and strengthens that “gratitude muscle.” It also allows us the opportunity to reflect down the road.
  2. Be specific. Avoid falling into the habit of checking the gratitude box with vague or broad aspects of your life like, “my family” or “my job.” Try to exercise your brain and increase awareness by being specific. Examples could include things like, “I’m grateful traffic was good on my commute this morning,” “It stopped raining when I had to walk home,” “My coworker was helpful on a project that was due this afternoon.” The more specific you are, the more intentionality and awareness you bring to the many positive things, people, or circumstances in your life.
  3. Share it with others. Invite others to practice gratitude with you. Be intentional about sharing your gratitude with those around you. That coworker who helped on a project? Let them know your appreciation. The neighbor who helped you in a pinch? Be intentional about communicating your gratefulness. You may find that demonstrating gratitude with those around you has a ripple effect.

Looking to learn more about gratitude? Find a list of recommended books and resources from PositivePsychology.com.