Gratitude is a powerful emotion that we feel and implement into our day to day life. Gratitude is defined as feeling the quality of being thankful for something, or showing appreciation to those who treat us well and expose us to acts of kindness. Whilst most of us will subconsciously show signs of gratitude in our day to day life, in this article we are going to look at the importance of gratitude, and how our quality of life can be improved by further understanding our knowledge of gratitude and the way that we use it.
A study was recently conducted in which two psychologists studied gratitude, and the effect that it had on our well-being. Michael McCollough and Robert Emmons selected several hundred participants for the study. The participants were off mixed sex, race, backgrounds and social groups as to make the study as impartial and accurate to the entire United States population as possible.
Split into three groups, the participants were asked to keep a daily diary. The first group of people were instructed to document their day without being told to focus on good or bad things. The second group of people were asked to document unpleasant experiences only, whilst the third group only wrote down a list of things that they felt grateful for each day.
After they had written in their diaries for a set amount of time, the results were collected and studied by the psychologists and their teams. The results showed that completing simple daily gratitude exercises such as keeping a diary helped all participants to experience higher levels of enthusiasm, alertness, optimism, determination and energy.
More interestingly, members of the group who were asked to write down their feelings of gratefulness were shown to experience less depression and stress when compared to the other two groups. When Dr. Emmons was asked to explain the findings, he stated that through other recent studies he has been able to conclude that practicing gratitude can boost your happiness levels by around 25%. This is a significant increase, because many illnesses and health problems are caused by stress and depression – the ability to boost happiness levels by 25% should not only sound appealing in its raw form, but the health benefits associated alongside it show why so many people are beginning to notice the importance of gratitude in their day to day life.
Another finding of the study was that those who regularly practice gratitude are usually more creative, recover quicker from upsets and fall backs, develop stronger immune systems and are able to maintain better relationships with people than those who don’t practice it. It’s interesting to note the amount of physical differences that can be achieved through practicing gratitude. Dr. Emmons goes on to state that “To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.”
So how exactly can the average person practice gratitude in their day to day life? The easiest way according to various psychologists is the keep a gratitude journal just like the participants of the study did. This method was first introduced by Sarah Breathnach in her book Simple Abundance Journal of gratitude. The method consists of writing down ten things every day that you are grateful for. This could be anything from somebody holding a door open for you at work, to receiving a pay rise, being promoted or even being helped out at a shop. It’s best to write down your feelings as you develop them, but practicality may dictate that you keep a mental note and write them all down at the end of the day. Studying the results can help you understand gratitude and the people in your life that try to make a difference.
Once you become accustomed to gratitude, you will be able to spot it far more easily, which will enable you to practice it in your day to day life. Gratitude shouldn’t be a one off feeling that you use to make you feel better when you are down or depressed. If successfully implemented into your daily life, it can help to improve your quality of life, and will allow you to find the good in seemingly unpleasant situations.