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The Power Of Gratitude

Written by: Kelly Norris, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

8 Proven Benefits & Simple Strategies for Fostering Gratitude & Happiness


Thanksgiving reminds us of the importance of gratitude and giving thanks, and of the joy that this brings into our lives. Thanksgiving may be over, but gratitude can be practiced and incorporated into our day-to-day lives all year long, fostering joy, positivity and connection. This article explains some of the benefits of practicing gratitude, and provides suggestions for developing a more grateful and positive outlook.

Gratitude & Happiness

There has been a great deal of research in the field of Positive Psychology demonstrating a strong correlation between gratitude and happiness. Intentionally practicing and creating a habit of gratitude can be a very effective way of increasing happiness. Gratitude promotes positive emotions, connectedness and ‘warm, fuzzy’ feelings. It counteracts the Negativity Bias, our brain’s natural inclination to attend to the negative aspects of a situation over the positive. Since we are wired for survival, our brains are constantly monitoring the environment, scanning below the surface of awareness for possible threats. We easily pick up on cues of disapproval from others (whether real or perceived), we can imagine all the possible scenarios for how badly something might go, and we readily recall unpleasant or distressing memories. These negative stimuli are often interpreted by our brains as imminent threats to our survival, and are therefore blown out of proportion. By practicing gratitude, we can actually change our brain and shift our minds toward more of a Positivity Bias.


8 Benefits of Gratitude


1. Increased Positive Emotions

Gratitude improves mood and produces hope and happiness. Participants in a study at Loyola University Chicago (Bryant & Veroff, 2007) were asked to take a “savoring walk” every day. They reported greater overall happiness after just a week. Taking time to “smell the roses,” intentionally noticing the good and focusing on the positive are all things that lead to feeling happier.


2. Increased Happiness & Longer Lifespan

Happiness is correlated with decreased mortality, regardless of physical health (Chida & Steptoe, 2008; Carr, 2011; Danner, Snowdon & Friesen, 2001). Happiness is linked to greater longevity (Lawrence, Rogers & Wadsworth, 2015).


3. Increased Self-Esteem

Becoming more grateful can lead to a greater sense of self-worth, self-compassion and confidence. Gratitude also increases resiliency, acting as a buffer against adverse and traumatic experiences. It allows for feelings of joy and optimism, even while dealing with the effects of these most difficult experiences.


4. Improved Stress Management

Gratitude reduces stress and can significantly diminish the levels of stress hormones in the body. Gratitude also improves cardiac functioning and promotes greater emotional resilience (McCraty & Childre, 2004). We can greatly improve our ability to handle stress simply by practicing gratitude.


5. Decreased Depression & Anxiety

Gratitude reduces hormones in the body associated with stress, and stimulates the release of neurochemicals associated with feelings of calm, connectedness and happiness. The result is an overall reduction in anxiety, anger and depressive-related symptoms. Gratitude can also help us to better manage these symptoms and develop a more positive mindset overall.


6. Improved Relationships & Connectedness

Gratitude can also help with building empathy for others and strengthen social bonds.


7. Decreased Physical Pain

Practicing gratitude can actually help to reduce subjective feelings of physical pain.


8. Improved Sleep

Gratitude can promote deeper, more restorative sleep.


Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude & Increase Happiness


1. Keep a Gratitude Journal: Every day, write a list of 3 to 5 things for which you are grateful. Try to include at least one ‘gratitude’ each day that is related to a relationship with another person. Spend some time really thinking about these things, and really allow yourself to experience that sense of gratitude and the feelings of joy, warmth and positivity that accompany it. Continue to do this for at least 21 consecutive days to prime your mind to look out for and notice those things in your life that are good. This can be a powerful way to counteract your brain’s bias toward negativity, and replace it with a positivity bias.


2. Gratitude Meditation: Search the web for guided meditations on gratitude, such as this one.


3. Gratitude Walk: Go on a mindful, “savoring walk” every day. Take in your surroundings using all of your senses. Notice and enjoy the scenery, literally stop and “smell the roses,” tune into the sounds of birds chirping and the crunching of leaves beneath your feet. Walk slowly, and appreciate the beauty of nature around you.


4. Write a Letter: Write a letter to someone that you appreciate, whom you are grateful to have in your life. Write a letter to that person with details about their significance to you, the impact they have had in your life, and why you feel grateful for that person.


5. Family Gratitude Schedule: Schedule a time each day to sit down with your significant other and/or family to share your gratitude toward one another and discuss specifically why you are grateful for the other person(s). This is a great activity to involve your kids in.


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Kelly Norris, Executive Contributor Brainz Magzine Kelly Norris, MA, LPC, is a Colorado licensed counselor and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP), dedicated to helping clients enjoy self-directed lives that are rich, meaningful and fulfilling. Her practice specializes in depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD/trauma, anger, stress, and chronic pain for both adolescent and adult clients. Kelly uses an integrative approach and has extensive training in various evidence-based modalities and interventions, including cognitive behavioral and mindfulness-based. She has found that a mindfulness practice fosters greater presence, warmth, compassion and non-judgment, which she brings with her into her therapy sessions. She enjoys sharing this practice with her clients, not only to help them manage or overcome whatever problems brought them into therapy, but to go far beyond that and facilitate clients in increasing their emotional resilience, transforming the way they relate to their inner and outer experiences, and connecting more deeply and compassionately to themselves, others, the world, and this moment. To learn more about Kelly and her practice, Kelly Norris Counseling & Psychotherapy, LLC, visit https://kellynorriscounseling.com/

 

References:

  • Bryant, F. and Veroff, J. (2007). Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

  • Danner, D.D., Snowdon, D.A., & Friesen, W.V. Positive Emotions in Early Life and Longevity: Findings from the Nun Study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 80, (5), 804-813. https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp805804.pdf doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.80.5.804

  • Chida, Y. Steptoe, A. (2008) Positive Psychological Well-Being and Morality: A Quantitative Review of Prospective Observational Studies. Psychosomatic Medicine. 70(7):741-756, SEP 2008. https://insights.ovid.com/pubmed?pmid=18725425 DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31818105ba

  • Lawrence, E.M., Rogers, R.G., & Wadsworth, T. (2015) Happiness and Longevity in the United States. Social Science Medicine Journal. November; 145: 115-119. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4724393/pdf/nihms749454.pdf doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.09.020.

  • McCraty, R., & Childre, D. (2004). The grateful heart: The psychophysiology of appreciation. In R. A. Emmons & M. E. McCullough (Eds.), Series in affective science. The psychology of gratitude (pp. 230–255). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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