Life’s stresses sometimes make it hard to focus on all of the things that are going right. Over time, self-pity and blaming others leads to mental health conditions, such as depression and addiction, that make life harder to enjoy. While most people were taught to say thank you as a child, it is easy to forget that expressing gratitude is one of the fastest ways to replace negative thought patterns that impact your wellbeing. Keep these eight benefits of practicing gratitude in mind so that you stay motivated for focusing on positive thoughts as you go about your daily activities.
1. Open Yourself Up to New Relationships
It is amazing how simple good manners can instantly turn a mundane experience into one that opens up new opportunities in your life. For instance, telling a stranger thank you for saving your spot in line or holding the door open, gives you a chance to connect with someone new. Showing appreciation can also help you retain friendships since everyone enjoys receiving a note of thanks for things that they do. In fact, simply smiling and saying thank you leaves people with a positive impression of you that makes them want to get to know you more.
2. Increase Your Positive Experiences
It is possible to multitask, but your mind can only focus on so many thoughts at a time. Therefore, shifting your mindset to one of gratitude leaves little room for negative thoughts. For instance, you can try thinking about how thankful you are for a short break from running around while you wait in line rather than thinking about how annoying it is to watch your time being wasted. This kind of thinking turns even the most mundane and frustrating situation into one that provides you with benefits such as being able to relax and enjoy the moment.
3. Reduce Aggression
Blame and resentment are two emotions that physically manifest into aggressive behavior. This is why teens often find practicing gratitude reduces violent incidents such as lashing out at their parents or starting fights at school. It does take some time for kids to learn how to recognize and replace negative thoughts with gratitude. However, it is worth it when they begin to exhibit fewer acts of aggression and instead focus on making positive changes in the world.
4. Enjoy Better Sleep
Anyone who has ever had a restless night knows how devastating the effects of unchecked stress are on the mind and body. People often find that focusing on positive thoughts at bedtime is an effective way to enjoy deeper, more restful sleep. Consider making a list of things that you are grateful for as you drift off to sleep, or start a gratitude journal that you write in during the evening hours. Practicing gratitude allows your mind to relax and let go of the stress that plagued it during the day.
5. Build Your Self-Esteem
Gratitude is an excellent replacement for jealousy. Trying to measure yourself against others only leads to lowered self-esteem because it is easy to forget that everyone must deal with challenges in their life. Today, social media makes it increasingly more common to experience low self-esteem when you view images of others who seem to have better bodies, houses and lifestyles than yours. While you know that all of these people are simply putting their best face forward, it is still hard to be thankful for what you have when you are watching others enjoy what looks like dream vacations. Make it a point to be thankful for the things that you have in your life. This helps you to feel genuine happiness when you see others enjoying the good things in life.
6. Increase Your Resilience
A resilient attitude simply means that you can bounce back from stressful events while finding ways to cope during hard times. However, resilience is something that is earned and learned, and gratitude plays an important role in this. When tough times strike, it is easy to overlook the things that are going right. For instance, the loss of a loved one could cause you to fall into depression, or you can choose to express gratitude for the time that you had with that special person. Focusing on all the wonderful things that they taught you and the experiences you shared helps to ease the pain of the loss.
7. Save Money
A lack of gratitude is often at the heart of shopping addictions. That feeling that everyone has something better than you can slowly creep in and influence the decisions that you make when you visit the store or browse online shopping sites. Learning to be happy with the things that you already have reduces unnecessary spending since you will be able to see that your current wardrobe or home furnishings is enough. Being able to shop without a clouded mindset allows you to keep more money in the bank so that you can continue to build your savings.
8. Improve Your Physical Health
The link between your mind and body is important to recognize. Feelings of anger, jealousy and resentment all lead to negative life choices that have drastic consequences for your physical health. For instance, choosing to use drugs or alcohol to mask your unhappiness leads to addiction and health problems such as liver disease. You are also less likely to do things such as exercise and eat right when you are depressed. Spend time acknowledging the good things in your life, and you will notice that you care more about keeping up with a healthy lifestyle.
One of the best things about practicing gratitude is that it requires absolutely no money and very little time to implement in your life. In fact, you can start right now by simply making a quick mental list of all of the things that you are grateful for. Over time, practicing gratitude will eventually become such an established habit that you will express thanks without even thinking about it. This way, you can continue to reap the benefits of practicing gratitude that allow you to make other positive changes in your life.