November is the month we celebrate Thanksgiving, so it is appropriate that National Gratitude Month is also in November. On average, grateful people tend to have fewer stress related illnesses and experience less depression and lowered blood pressure, they are more physically fit, they are happier, have a higher income, more satisfying personal and professional relationships and will be better liked. Grateful kids are even more likely to get A’s in school.
The Benefits of Gratitude
As children, we learn (hopefully) to say please and thank you. It turns out that gratitude, or giving thanks, is not only good manners, it has many benefits.
- Enhance empathy and reduce aggression. A 2012 study by the University of Kentucky revealed that grateful people are more likely to behave in a pro-social manner. That means they are less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative stimulus. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people.
- Foster more relationships. According to a 2014 study published in Emption, showing appreciation can help you win new friends. It can be as simple as saying thank you to a stranger for holding the door or sending a quick thank-you note to a colleague. Acknowledging others can lead to new opportunities and new friends.
- Improve physical health. That means fewer aches and pains and a greater likelihood that he or she will exercise more, see his or her doctor on a regular basis and in other ways take care of their health.
- Improve psychological health. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that gratitude reduces toxic emotions and increases happiness and emotional well-being.
- Improve self-esteem. A 2014 study found that gratitude increased the self-esteem of athletes. Gratitude also reduces social comparisons so a person may be less likely to feel jealous of those who have more money or better jobs.
- Increase mental strength. A study of Vietnam Vets showed that practicing gratitude was a way to reduce stress and overcome trauma. An additional study showed that gratitude contributed to resilience after the September 11 attacks and can aid in healing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Sleep better. Those who write in a gratitude journal sleep better, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology.
20 Ways to Practice Gratitude
There are many ways to practice gratitude. Here are 20 ways to get started.
If you practice gratitude on a regular basis, it will become a habit that can change your life, and the lives of those around you.
- Keep a gratitude journal and add to it every day.
- Tell someone you love them and how much you appreciate them. Work to nurture your friendships.
- Make a conscious effort to smile more often.
- Subscribe to a gratitude daily email, text or video of the day. When you watch an inspiring video, you can be reminded of the good in the world.
- Include an act of kindness in your life each day. Even small acts can make a difference.
- Avoid negative media (TV, computers, games, movies) with destructive content.
- Call your Mom or Dad!
- Volunteer for organizations that help others.
- When you hear gossip about others, don’t pass it on. Instead, say something kind about the person who is the subject of the gossip.
- Spend quality time with your kids (or someone else’s).
- Remember to compliment your friends and family when they look good.
- Send a card (use a stamp) to someone you haven’t seen in a while and tell them something nice.
- When you think a negative thought, try to see the positive side in the situation.
- Commit to one day a week when you won’t complain about anything. At all.
- Try to take note when people do a good job and give recognition when it’s due – whether at home, or at work.
- Reward effort. If someone does something nice for you, do something nice for them.
- Thank the people who are helping you every day – like coffee shop workers, cashiers, bus drivers, etc.
- Post quotes and images around your home or apartment that remind you to be grateful.
- Do you have grandparents? Call them (or an elderly neighbor) and say thank you for being part of your life.
- When times are bad, focus on your friends who are at your side.