Whenever you’re going through a hard time, feeling down, or simply in need of some encouragement, you may find yourself reflecting on all the positive things in your life.
After all, people often tell you to “be grateful” or that “it could be worse,” so you have to “count your blessings.”
While these comments can diminish you and your struggles (hello, toxic positivity), there is great power behind displaying acts of gratitude when done intentionally.
But what exactly is gratitude?
Is it showing an undying appreciation for everything in your life, all because someone else doesn’t have it? Is it the prayers and speeches recounted at the Thanksgiving dinner table?
Now hear me out. Although this all sounds forced, practicing gratitude in your life truly changes you.
According to Harvard Health, gratitude is a “thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.” This means that a person can acknowledge all the positive aspects of their life, big or small.
This could be recognizing having access to a support system, having the means to travel, having access to housing and education, or simply living to see another day. The things you can be grateful for are limitless, and what matters is that it means something to you.
Gratitude is one of the largest areas of study in Positive Psychology. According to PositivePsychology, there are many benefits to practicing gratitude.
One of the most notable findings is that it can make you happier. Researchers found that keeping a gratitude journal and journaling for at least 5 minutes every day can “enhance long-term happiness by over 10%.” This shows that journaling forces us to reflect and acknowledge the aspects of our life that can go unnoticed.
In addition, gratitude can increase our self-esteem and make us more optimistic. Who doesn’t want to feel better about themselves and their reality? As you actively practice gratitude, you increase positive emotions, leaving less room for any negative feelings you may be harboring.
Gratitude doesn’t only impact your mental health, either. It also positively affects your physical health, emphasizing the mind-body connection. A study by The Royal Society showed that it could boost your immune system, as increased psychological well-being can help your body fight off illness. Gratitude thus becomes a key player as it naturally has a positive impact on mental health.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with finding ways to show gratitude, either. You don’t need to start calling everyone you love and telling them how much you appreciate them. Simply keeping a small journal, meditating, or keeping track of positive daily habits is a great way to incite change.