Maybe you've heard of "gratitude practices" before. It's definitely gaining popularity, and with good reason! But why? What is a "gratitude practice" and why has it become so popular? In this article, we'll look at what gratitude is, why it's so good for your mental health, and how you can cultivate a gratitude practice that helps you AND your family become happier and emotionally healthier!
Why is Gratitude Good for You?
Robert Emmons is one of the leading scientific experts on gratitude. He's an American psychologist and he has spent much of his career studying gratitude. In his research, he has identified multiple reasons why gratitude is so important for us! In his article, "Why is Gratitude Good," he shares some of the benefits that a consistent gratitude practice can have on people, including:
> Stronger immune systems
> Lower blood pressure
> Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
> Higher levels of positive emotions
> More alert, alive, and awake
> More optimism and happiness
> More helpful, generous, and compassionate
> More outgoing
> Less feelings of loneliness
That's a lot of good stuff, if you ask me. And that's just SOME of the benefits he mentions. You can certainly check out his article to learn more about them.
I'm always up for a simple ritual that can positively impact my daily life, and having a daily gratitude practice can certainly do that. But what is "gratitude" anyway, and what's a "gratitude practice"?
If you were to google the word "gratitude," you would be presented with the following definition:
"the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness"
I don't know about you, but I don't find the definition all that helpful. So I went back to our expert, Robert Emmons. He did a much better job of breaking down gratitude. He explained:
“First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received..... we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. … We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”
Essentially then, gratitude is:
1. Affirmation of goodness
2. Recognizing the source of "goodness" comes from something outside of ourselves
That's certainly more helpful! We can see that "gratitude" has 2 parts. This leads us to our final task of determining what a "gratitude practice" is, and how can you apply it to your daily life?
Developing a Daily Gratitude Practice
A "gratitude practice" is the act of recognizing something "good" or "positive" in your life in some way. This might be by verbalizing the goodness or writing it down. It's that simple! The key to making this practice effective for you is to do it on a daily basis. That's how you reap all of those benefits Emmons talks about in his article. The key is consistency!