Not Just a Simple Thank You: Reasons & Ways to Cultivate Gratitude
Being thankful may be on our minds the most on Thanksgiving. But are there reasons to practice this attitude year-round? Plenty! Acts of gratitude can boost happiness and improve your health, emotional resilience, career, and of course, relationships. Get in the know on why and how to fully reap in the benefits of your next “thank you”.
The Social Role of Gratitude
The purpose of gratitude goes beyond saying “please” and “thank you” to be polite. Gratitude plays an important role socially, including to create new or build on and improve existing relationships through apologies, positive reinforcements, and assistance. One study published in 2010, found that the communal strength of a relationship was higher among participants that expressed gratitude. Thanking a new acquaintance can make them more likely to continue the relationship as well as promote connection and satisfaction.
Although references of gratitude in religions and spiritual movements often focus on being grateful to a higher power, simply being grateful to be alive can also motivate us to make the most of each day. One study exploring if gratitude can motivate middle school students to give back to their neighborhood, community, and world found they serially enhanced each other. Another study found that counting blessings is an effective way to enhance well-being in early adolescents.
The Mental and Physical Benefits
Genuinely appreciating someone or an experience not only feels good, but can also increase our emotional resiliency, generate more respect, improve decision making and management at work, and make you more optimistic overall. Gratitude improves happiness by re-framing our memories, reducing feelings of envy, and protects you from stress and depression through increased life satisfaction.
The physical benefits that further support mental health are also plenty. For starters, expressing gratitude improves your longevity, energy levels, and ability to relax. By asking patients to keep a gratitude journal for eight weeks, one study found it led to improved cardiac health including reduced inflammation, improved sleep, and better moods.
Ways to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
Keep a Gratitude Journal or Calendar
A gratitude journal or calendar can reinforce the habit of generating thoughts around what you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be a daily activity nor does it have to be lengthy. Taking time to write three things, three to four times a week is just as effective. On those days where it’s harder to come up with examples, read what you wrote previously and self-inspire!
Get Postal with Thank You Notes
When was the last time you hand-delivered a thank you note? Or mailed a physical thank you card – store bought or homemade? Reflect on and reach out to those who have made a positive influence in your life with a thoughtful note or postcard! There’s no doubt it will have a meaningful impact on their day knowing the thought and effort you put into reaching out.
Be Conscious of Everyday Kindness
Spread feel-good sensations by sharing your appreciation of acts of kindness or service we encounter everyday whether it is from friends, family, co-workers, or the server during your next meal out. Try dedicating one day a week to no-complaints and see how your mood changes over a month!
Cook Up Some Homemade Gratitude
Besides being grateful for the small things already surrounding you – like shelter, air-conditioning, or good water pressure in your shower – there’s no rule against generating something to appreciate. At least one day a month I treat myself to something I’m craving and gratefully soak in the fact that I can!