I know that sharing gratitude, receiving gratitude and being grateful are all wonderful for me. In fact, I usually love to share, feel and receive gratitude and focus on the good.
But in the past, sometimes a weird thing happened when I got stressed or sad or angry or overwhelmed. I stopped doing the things that made me feel gratitude, I didn’t receive gratitude that was offered to me, and I found it hard to offer gratitude, like saying kind things to others. It was like a protective shell formed around me to keep out hurt or fear or loneliness, but it also shut down the good — joy, connection, happiness and gratitude.
This can still happen, but now I am more aware of when I start to shut down and I know that’s when I need gratitude even more.
Why Is Gratitude So Essential?
Because I have found that gratitude, even a small dose, makes me feel better and has a profound effect on my outlook and level of stress.
I didn’t want that protective shell to descend on me. So I explored times in my life when I handled stress well. I wrote down a list of times that I had been able to get through without shutting down and discovered that there was a strong link to being willing to remember the good things and people around me. Even a small thing, like the sweet smell of flowers, the blue sky or acknowledging the good friends I had resulted in a more positive outlook. That positive outlook made me open to receiving gratitude and being grateful for what was good in my life.
When I adapted a grateful attitude — affirming goodness — it helped me stay connected to people who matter to me, feel more upbeat and able to deal better with stress and difficulty. It’s not all sunshine and roses, but there’s been a profound shift in my mindset.
I didn’t discover these benefits of gratitude on my own, I read many articles and books on gratitude and decided to be more deliberate in affirming goodness in my life. I started a few gratitude practices until I found what worked for me.
So what are the benefits of gratitude? There are so many that I cannot list them all here, but here are some big ones:
- Gratitude increases emotional wellbeing and how we can get along better with others.
- It decreases depression and allows us to recover more quickly from depressed moods.
- It helps us to deal with stress or even trauma.
- It helps us achieve more, have more positive emotions, feel more alert and alive, and increases our feelings of joy and pleasure.
And that’s not all, gratitude has effects on our physical health like better sleep and lower blood pressure. And people who have more gratitude in their lives tend to be less lonely, more connected.
Knowing and remembering the benefits of gratitude has helped me incorporate small habits of gratitude into my day and stick with it. It’s like taking preventative medicine to avoid a problem. When anger, sadness, overwhelm, loneliness or, particularly, stress happen, I feel as if I have a buffer that helps me get through.
What are you grateful for? Say it out loud, really feel and acknowledge the good. Do it again. How does it feel?