"Stop feeling sorry for yourself," we are often told. And while it can be hard to avoid self-pity entirely, mentally strong people choose to exchange self-pity for gratitude. Whether you choose to write a few sentences in a gratitude journal, or simply take a moment to silently acknowledge all that you have, giving thanks can transform your life.
Here are 7 scientifically proven benefits:
Gratitude opens the door to more relationships
Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study.
Gratitude improves physical health
Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study.
Gratitude improves psychological health
Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret.
Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression
Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kindly, according to a 2012 study.
Grateful people sleep better
Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study.
Gratitude improves self-esteem
A 2014 study found that gratitude increased athletes’ self-esteem, an essential component to optimal performance.
Gratitude increases mental strength
For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma.
Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can't feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.
Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis!
Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person's impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you've received each day.
Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as "peace"), it is also possible to focus on what you're grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).