Giving thanks can transform your life. Gratitude isn’t just for those who are optimistic. It isn’t just for those who are full of energy and zest for life. It isn’t just for those who are healthy, wealthy, and wise. No. Gratitude is for us all. Are you a weary Truck Driver stuck in traffic, missing your son’s birthday, and not sure how you’re going to pay for an unexpected medical expense? You can transform your life by being grateful. Are you an exhausted Freight Agent tired of late nights and early mornings with nothing left to give? You can transform your life with gratitude.
Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar was known to say, “ Gratitude is the healthiest of all emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” Simply put, choosing gratefulness turns what IS going right and what we DO have to be thankful for into enough; and that is what has the power to transform your life.
Not convinced? Here are three scientifically backed reasons for the benefits of gratitude.
Improves Your Physical Health
In 2011, researchers studied those who wrote in a gratitude journal before bedtime as compared to those who did not. Their findings, published in Applied Psychology, showed spending just fifteen minutes before bed listing things you are grateful for improves quality and duration of sleep. Can you imagine even an extra 30 minutes of quality sleep and the impact that would make on your health and wellbeing?
Research also consistently shows gratitude lowers stress and depression. People who are grateful typically report fewer aches and pains, have lower blood pressure, and live longer than those who are not grateful. This is in part because those who are grateful often tend to choose to take better care of their bodies too.
Strengthens Your Relationships
While being grateful improves your health, it also strengthens your relationships. Studies have shown gratitude reduces your desire to compare yourself to others. Instead of becoming resentful of someone else’s success, choosing gratitude helps you to genuinely appreciate another’s accomplishments. When you appreciate others, others are often drawn toward you, thereby strengthening your relationship.
Another study done at the University of Kentucky in 2012 showed those who had more gratitude were more empathetic and less likely to be aggressive. Empathy is a key component in connecting with someone and strengthens healthy relationships.
Builds Your Mental Resilience
In addition to improving your physical health and strengthening your relationships, gratitude also benefits your mental health. Keeping gratitude in the forefront of your mind builds mental resilience. Resilience is the ability to “bounce back” from setbacks and challenges. When you choose to focus on what is good in your life, especially during tough times, you actually strengthen your brain.
A study published in 2006 in Behavior Research and Therapy showed Vietnam Veterans who had higher levels of gratitude had lower levels of PTSD. Another study published in 2003 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concluded gratefulness was linked to mental resilience after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, confirms this research. Building mental resilience leads to greater levels of self-confidence and overall happiness. All this in just listing things you are thankful for in a journal for a few minutes each day.
Final Thoughts on Gratitude
Each of us has the power to choose whether or not to complain about what we think we deserve, what is not going well, and how unfair life seems. Gratitude doesn’t cost anything, doesn’t require any skills, and doesn’t take much time. However, the rewards of practicing gratitude yield great results: health, relationships, and resilience. Cultivate gratitude by pausing to focus on what you have. Aesop, a storyteller famous for his fables, got it right: “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”
So, what do you have to be grateful for?
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