„Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you
and to give thanks continuously.
And because all things have contributed to your advancement,
you should include all things in your gratitude.“
- Ralph Waldo Emerson -
Gratitude is a powerful tool that most people aren't even aware of. We usually express our gratitude when someone does us a favor or gives us a gift or a compliment. In these moments, we are thankful that this someone has done something good for us, and we often repay this action with a simple "thank you".
But just imagine if we could boost this positive feeling and be grateful for all the beautiful things in our lives. The outcomes that are achieved in the continuous practice of gratitude are impressive. Buddhist monks, scientific studies and countless surveys only confirm what is already obvious: gratitude is a sure path to happiness!
What is gratitude?
The explicit definition of gratitude is this: "Gratitude is a feeling as well as an expression of being thankful." We therefore perceive it as a positive feeling. We react to this in turn with corresponding emotions, and these are the origin of all our actions. However, the moments in which we are grateful are usually short and not lasting. If, on the other hand, we would practice gratitude on a regular basis, we could increase and strengthen these happy emotions.
Our life is often affected by negative influences. A fight with your partner or a friend is only a banal example. The daily news alone is filled with negative events such as wars, natural disasters, accidents and political conflicts. Of course, you should never close your eyes to them, but you have to understand that negative influences from everywhere have effects on our mind, our mood and our whole life.
The same applies to comparisons. It is easy to be compared with others, and you can find them in any place where you meet other people. For example, you sit in your old van and next to you drives a new sports car. Social media can have a huge impact on our self-esteem, too. Most of the time you see "perfect" people there, who enjoy an even more perfect life. They cruise on a yacht, travel to the most beautiful places in the world, visit only the best clubs and look fashionable and aesthetically stunning. All this has very little to do with reality and is often just a show, but that is quickly forgotten when you scroll through the beach pictures of an Influencer on a rainy day with a full schedule. You also want those nice things, and quickly you can see your own life as "not enough".
But every person has beautiful things and wonderful people in his life. Every day is worthy to be lived. Even if you feel lonely, pursued by bad luck, have to fight with heartbreak or depression, gratitude puts the right focus on the positive facts of our life. It creates balance, just like yin and yang. Where there is sun, there is also shadow. And vice versa, if there is shadow, there must first be a source of light for it. This light must always be sought. This has nothing to do with naivety or sweet talk. Gratitude makes you happy, because it shows you every time what you have and not what you don't have.
In an interview, the American actor Terry Crews, who despite his muscular and bulky figure is anything but fearsome, revealed why he always seems so open, cheerful and friendly. His answer was simple. The reason was gratitude. He explained that every day he reminded himself of the simple life he came from and how grateful he was for his life today. He doesn't use his position to profile himself or to make an impression on others, but he draws his self-esteem and happiness from it, because he is grateful for everything that has been given to him. Gratitude is far more powerful than you might think.
The Greek philosopher Epictetus put it simply and yet so accurately:
He is a wise man,
who does not grieve for the things that he has not,
but rejoices for those he has.
So let us also be wise and bring more light and happiness into our lives.
What are the benefits of gratitude?
Regularly practicing gratitude has some advantages that not only have a positive effect on our mind, but also on our body. It has been scientifically proven that positive mental states during an illness can improve healing, while a negative perspective can worsen a certain condition. Often, placebo drugs are used, which make patients feel better immediately after taking them, although a medical effect of the substances could not be proven. Our mind has the power to improve our whole life or to bring it out of balance.
While expressing gratitude, you focus on strong positive feelings, which release happiness hormones such as endorphins in our brain. A regular release increases our sense of happiness, our emotional state and our balance. Positive thoughts have an effect on the whole organism and reduce the release of our stress hormone cortisol, which in turn has a positive effect on our serenity.
What was previously mostly only recommended by religious or esoteric groups was explored in 2003, and its advantages were scientifically proven. Several studies on the subject of gratitude conducted by American psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough produced incisive results. They conducted this study several times, dividing the participants each time into three groups of equal size. Over the course of ten weeks, the first group was supposed to write down daily what they were grateful for. The second group noted what annoyed them that day, and the third group was to report their experiences neutrally over the ten weeks.
While the conditions of the second and third groups remained partly unchanged after the ten weeks, the results of the first group showed the following:
Psychological results: The participants felt more relaxed and satisfied, less exhausted and they felt more joy and happiness by expressing their gratitude every day. They were far more compassionate and helpful to others. Their whole self-awareness was increased in this short time as they became more literally aware of themselves and their surroundings.
Physical results: The medical side also wanted to be certain, and the results were significant. The participants in the first group slept more restful and stayed longer in a constant deep sleep phase. In addition, their blood pressure had dropped compared to the initial values, they complained of less headaches and were generally more active.
A more recent study from 2016, which was conducted at Indiana University by Christian Jarrett, showed similar results. Here there were two groups, where for three months the first group was to express their gratitude to a random person for twenty minutes in a letter, while the other served only as a control group without performing the exercise.
At the end of the period, all participants underwent a brain examination in a magnetic resonance tomograph (MRT). During this process, they were given various tasks in which they were asked to express their gratitude. For example, they were given a certain amount of money. In the group that wrote the letters, the scan showed significantly more brain activity in the frontal lobe, the seat of our personality and social behavior; the parietal lobe, which is responsible for sensory perception; and the occipital lobe, also called the visual center of our brain.
All this proves that by writing a letter of gratitude every day, this positive feeling could be increased by a multiple. This leads to the conclusion that gratitude can be trained, and it feels better every time and fills us with more happiness. Without practice, this effect does not occur. Thus, the constant practice is worthwhile, because we all wish for more happiness.
Furthermore, success was also achieved in couple's therapy, with both partners keeping a diary for a while. Every day they were supposed to write down three things why they were grateful about the other person. Marriage crises can be prevented or at least alleviated by this method. The same applies to problematic work and family circumstances.
If you practice gratitude regularly, it's not that bad living conditions or negative relationships with other people suddenly disappear. The problems must still be solved, and they rarely vanish by themselves. But if you are constantly grateful, you are brought into the reality of the present. You can become more aware of things in your life that you might not have realized before. Gratitude makes everything more bearable and exposes the light in your life. A positive and goal-oriented approach is the best way to solve problems.
How to practice gratitude?
It is important to integrate gratitude as a habit in our lives. You can only acquire all the positive aspects if it is practiced regularly. A new house cannot be built overnight either. It is laid brick by brick, beam by beam, one after the other and continuously until one day, the building is complete. You will need some patience, but the profit will come for sure.
As we have experienced before, it is possible to train the positive feeling of gratitude and to strengthen its perception by dedicating yourself to the practice, preferably daily. The best and easiest way is to use a gratitude journal. And this is how you should use it:
Write down at least three things a day that you are grateful for on that particular day. For example, you can write down your daily entries in the evening or reflect on the previous day the next morning. Even if it was a bad day, you will find things or people to be thankful about.
A few examples: Today (insert date) I am grateful for...
- ...the beautiful sunset, which I enjoyed on my balcony.
- ...that I have had enough to eat and drink.
- ...the fact that I am healthy and could go to the gym.
- ...that my boss gave me a compliment.
If you want to increase the effect even more, there is a highly effective method by simply turning the whole thing around. You don't think about what you have, but about what you would miss the most. Afterwards you note how grateful you are about this fact, object or person.
Most of the advantages can be gained if you don't just write down a few things, but always connect each entry with a positive emotion. You do this by putting an image in your head, for example, of the person you are grateful for, and then try to feel the deepest affection in that moment. The more intensely you express this feeling and make a note, the faster you will benefit from the life-enhancing qualities of gratitude.
Even if you forget it for a day, keep writing in your gratitude journal and remember at least three things you are grateful for or would miss terribly. It's best to always take your diary with you and don't let the routine break off.
And there are no wrong answers. It's okay if you are infinitely grateful for your car, because it brings you safely to work every day, or for your full bank account, because it allows you a more carefree life. Create your own happiness and share it with other people, because that is probably the most beautiful thing you have to give. You can always be thankful about something or someone, and that is why I end with this accurate quote from Buddha Siddhartha Gautama:
Let us stand up and be grateful,
because if we have not learned much
so at least we learned a little bit,
and if we didn't even learn a little,
at least we didn't get sick,
and if we've become sick after all,
at least we didn't die;
so let us all be grateful.
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Gratitude brings enormous advantages. It teaches us more mindfulness and shows us more of the happiness that already exists in our lives but which we like to overlook. It can help us to be more relaxed, helpful, kind, cheerful, self-confident and energetic. It is medically proven to reduce stress and blood pressure.
We need to practice it as often as possible, just like every other thing in our lives. You write down at least three things to be thankful for. The best way to associate these notes with a positive feeling is to try from the bottom of your heart to realize the value of that thing or person and how much you would suffer if they were no longer in our lives.
Use a gratitude diary and increase your happiness. It is a pity that often male individuals are less likely to be persuaded to write a gratitude journal, but just like the beautiful sex, they should integrate the enormous benefits of positive thinking into their lives. Everyone has the right to become happy.
I hope the article was helpful for you. If so, please share it, so others like you can benefit from it. I wish YOU the best.
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