Thanksgiving may have come and gone, but that doesn’t matter. Because expressing gratitude shouldn’t be saved for this one time of year. The truth is, giving thanks benefits the way we feel about ourselves and others, helping make our everyday lives better as time passes. That’s right, the positive impact of practicing gratitude actually accumulates over time.
Why giving thanks makes us feel good
If the idea that saying thank you will positively impact your physical and mental health seems too far-fetched, we get it. It’s just too easy, right? And it won’t cost you your savings — or rob you of your time. But the benefits have been measured and the results are in: Practicing gratitude might just be the antidote for whatever happens to be bringing us down. And, get this, there are no side effects. The trickiest part is that we have to truly feel grateful in order to enjoy the benefits. Because that’s when a feel-good chemical called dopamine is released in our brains — similar to when we gobble down a piece of chocolate or are held by the person we love.
Ways to express gratitude & how it can help
From improving your physical health to helping you achieve greater happiness, the benefits of gratitude can be truly life-changing. If you’ve got a specific area in your life that you’d like to improve, browse the list below to see how gratitude can help!
• Want a better night’s sleep? Spend the last moments before you turn off the light jotting down what you were thankful for that day. Too tired to grab a pen (or your laptop)? Simply thinking about what makes you feel grateful will help. Researchers concluded that negative thinking affects sleep quality and makes it harder to fall asleep in the first place. Practicing gratitude means we are ‘thinking positive’ right before bed, which helps us sleep more soundly.
• Looking to improve your relationships? Expressing gratitude is certainly a way to give both your friendships and love life a boost. Not only does saying thanks make you feel good (thanks, dopamine!), but telling the VIPs in your life why you are grateful for their existence will no doubt make them feel appreciated and loved. And don’t forget, the closer a relationship, the easier it is for us to take a person for granted. A daily dose of gratitude might help reignite the romance! A simple and thoughtful way to say thanks is to buy thank you cards or write a letter expressing your gratitude.
• Want to purge negative thoughts and feelings? Studies have shown that grateful people are kinder and less aggressive, so try this: Anytime you are overwhelmed by negative emotions — like anger, envy, resentment, or even the desire for revenge — make a conscious shift in thought by thanking someone who made your day (or week!). This person may have done something as small as acknowledged a job well done at work or complimented your new haircut, so it’s unlikely they know the effect their small act of kindness had on you. Shoot them an email or text to let them know how grateful you are for what they’ve done. Make this a habit, and you’ll notice those negative emotions and aggressive thoughts making fewer unwanted appearances.
• Wish you were more empathetic? If you find it hard empathizing with others, try putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes. Then (silently) give thanks for what you have. For example, if a friend just lost their job, think about how grateful you are for the perks that come with working for your company.. Mentally counting your blessings may make it easier to show compassion when it’s needed most. Plus, gratitude and empathy tend to go hand in hand, so the more you practice one, the other should come naturally.
• Want to build resilience? Life can’t have its ups without its downs — so the better you are able to cope with disappointment, overcome challenges, and move past failures, the easier it will be to pick yourself up after a fall. A good way to build this important life skill is by looking for the silver lining in the toughest of situations (yes, that’s gratitude!). Car broke down in the middle of winter? At least you remembered to wear your warm boots today. Didn’t get that promotion? Less overtime means more time to spend with the people you love. Those who practice gratitude bounce back from life’s challenges more quickly.
• Need to work on your patience? Here’s a great way to pass the time when you’ve got an appointment and the bus is 20 minutes late: Let your imagination run wild! Think up an alternate reality where an on-time bus comes with some unpleasant surprises. From spilling coffee all over your shirt when the bus drives over a huge pot hole to watching the clock for an hour in the waiting room anyway, trick yourself into thinking your day would have been no better had the bus been on time. Then let yourself feel grateful that a late bus meant foregoing one of those days where everything goes wrong. Yet another study on gratitude has demonstrated that “the grateful are patient,” so give it a try!
It’s important to note that giving thanks is not a one-off. You can’t write a list of the things you are grateful for, and expect to be the happiest, most patient, most empathetic person out there. The benefits have been proven to accumulate over time, so if you continue to practice gratitude each day, you can reap the rewards for the rest of your life. So, what are you waiting for? Get started on working towards a happier life filled with gratitude by giving League’s one page gratitude journal a try!