Never underestimate how good gratitude will make you feel!
The holidays are a time for family and friends to get together and exchange gifts, share familiar traditions, and give to those who are less fortunate. For many, this time of year is overshadowed by feelings of sadness, anxiety, or depression. At the very least, the holidays can be a stressful time. The mountain of things to do can seem overwhelming. There is a way to decrease your holiday stress and actually lift your spirits not only through the holiday season, but throughout the year. How do you do this? Start by giving thanks.
In fact, the word gratitude comes from the Latin root gratia which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. All the derivatives of this root refer to gifts, generosity, and kindness.
For those struggling with addiction, depression, or anxiety it may be hard to think of anything to be grateful for. The fact that you’re reading this blog is in itself a gift. You are here! You are taking it one day at a time and you are doing it! That is huge, and it is something to be celebrated and to be grateful for. Remember:
The past is history,
the future is a mystery,
and this moment is a gift.
That’s why it’s called present.
During the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, take a minute to pause and reflect on all the good that has come into your life. Take out a piece of paper or your journal and actually write them down. Get into the habit of giving thanks. As soon as you wake up, before your feet touch the floor, pause for a moment, lace your fingers behind your head, and give thanks for your many blessings. Living with an attitude of gratitude can improve your life in so many ways. Here are just a few benefits of the power of giving thanks.
Gratitude can improve your mental health
Positive psychology research has shown that those who give thanks consistently experience greater happiness. By simply giving thanks for the many blessings in your life, you will feel more positive emotions. Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, had conducted much research on gratitude. In one of their studies, they asked participants, split into three groups, to write down a couple of sentences or particular topics every week. Group one wrote about all the things they were grateful for. Group two wrote about things that made them angry or unhappy. Group three wrote about things that affected them, but with no specific emotion attached. After 10 weeks, Emmons and McCullough found that the group who wrote about gratitude were happier and more optimistic about their lives. They felt better, exercised more, and had fewer doctor’s visits.
Gratitude may stop you from overeating
Disordered eating is a disease that may isolate a person from experiencing life to the fullest. Typically serving as a coping mechanism for surviving overwhelming circumstances or painful emotions, people with disordered eating can become numb to their emotions. The deeper they spiral into the disease, the harder it is for them to notice the beautiful things that make their lives worth living. Gratitude is the key to conquering numbness and isolation.
Susan Peirce Thompson, a cognitive psychologist who specializes in the psychology of eating, found that “gratitude replenishes willpower.” Those who make it a habit of feeling gratitude can supercharge their impulse control, helping them take time to make better decisions. Whenever you encounter triggers, step away and write down a quick list of the things you are grateful for. This will allow you to clear your mind and reset your objectives.
Take the time to write down the list of things you are grateful for. The act of giving thanks and physically writing it down has the power to transform a bad day into a more hopeful one. Reflect on all the things in your life that you are grateful for — the people you love, your healing, your health, the future life you are building right now. Whenever you feel you need a boost, take out your journal and reread your list. Add to it. You will actually feel the power of gratitude working in your life.
Giving thanks can boost your overall health
Study after study shows that grateful individuals consistently report a wide range of physical and psychological benefits. In a study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, researchers asked people to rank their level of gratefulness, physical health, and mental well-being as well as how they thought they would do with wellness-enhancing activities such as exercise, eating healthy meals, and visiting the doctor. They found that those who felt gratitude took better care of their bodies overall.
Feeling grateful can help cultivate stronger relationships
Being in the habit of giving thanks for your blessings has been shown to improve numerous aspects of a person’s friendships and romantic relationships. When you are grateful for your relationship, that gratitude will come back to you.
According to Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret, The Law of Attraction states that like energy attracts like energy. In other words, if you dwell on negative thoughts about your partner, you will receive negativity. Likewise, when you focus on the good things you love about your partner—the more grateful you are—the more that relationship will improve. In a study in the Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology, researchers found that both men and women experienced greater feelings of connectedness and overall satisfaction in their relationship.
Gratitude helps you handle adversity
Robert A. Emmons, Ph. D. has spent a decade studying the power of gratitude and how it magnifies goodness. But what if things aren’t going your way? Given life’s challenges, it’s difficult to focus on the good stuff. But that’s when you need to count your blessings the most! In fact, when times are tough, that is the best time to gain perspective by gratitude. It has the power to energize and heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to inject hope into your life. In other words, gratitude helps you endure the tough times.
Counting your blessing promotes better sleep
Research in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found a positive correlation between gratitude and better sleep quality and duration. Another study that included over 400 adults, 40% who had sleep disorders, found that the subjects’ quality of sleep was greatly enhanced by gratitude. They were prompted to think thoughts of thankfulness before drifting off to sleep. The subjects fell asleep faster and slept for a longer period of time.
Many times, we have a hard time falling asleep because negative thoughts creep into our heads the minute we lie down. You might be worried about your bills, your family, or your health. You might be worried about future events. These thoughts are not rooted in the present moment. Let those negative thoughts go. Say to yourself, “Those things will be there for me to solve tomorrow. Right now, I will give thanks for every good thing I have.” Being in an attitude of gratitude will allow you to drift off to a peaceful night’s sleep.
In her recent study, Dr. Nancy Digdon, professor at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, found that writing a list of the things you are grateful for in a journal for 15 minutes each night before bedtime resulted in longer and more sound sleep. Taking a few minutes each night before bedtime to count your blessings won’t just make you happier, it’ll help you feel more rested. Emma Seppälä, a happiness researcher at Stanford and Yale Universities and author of The Happiness Track, says that we should all “count our blessings, not sheep.”
Gratitude increases your chances of success in life
Giving thanks makes you happier, and that makes your brain function better. Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, found that our brains work better when we’re feeling positive. We are smarter and more creative. In other words, we need to think of success, not in terms of IQ, but of happiness. Achor writes, “Only 25 percent of job success is based upon IQ. Seventy-five percent is about how your brain believes your behavior matters, connects to other people and manages stress.”
Your brain works much better when you’re feeling good. In that sense, instead of thinking of success as the source of happiness, it’s really happiness that is the source of success. According to Achor, “Optimism is the greatest predictor of entrepreneurial success because it allows your brain to perceive more possibilities.”
Getting into the habit of giving thanks is easier than you think. Every day, write down just three things you’re grateful for. Do this for 21 days. You’ll find your feelings of optimism last for up to six months. The power to change the course of your life is in your hands. And it all starts by giving thanks.
In this busy season of buying and wrapping presents, mailing cards, and getting together with friends and family, take time to count your many blessings. The power of gratitude can change your life for the better. And you will be amazed at how good you feel!
If you or someone you know is struggling with sadness, depression, or anxiety, please reach out to us. At Wallace Family Therapy, we are trained to provide the most effective treatment that meets your specific needs and challenges. We’re here to help you.