Gratitude: The often-overlooked game changer

Read PracticeLink articles by Alexandra Cappetta
Alexandra Cappetta

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During particularly difficult or stressful times, expressing gratitude doesn’t always come naturally. When bouts of burnout or depressed moods hit (because sometimes they do!), it may require more of a conscious choice to pivot toward a spirit of thankfulness.

But here’s why that choice is worth it: Psychology research from Harvard Health shows expressing gratitude “helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

Seems pretty significant, right? Let’s take a look at some findings and proven methods to make these benefits a reality.

What else does research say?

  • Better mood

In one experiment, Berkeley Health worked with 300 individuals to determine if writing letters of gratitude could improve one’s mental wellness, even if they were predisposed to mental health struggles. The results showed that participants who wrote letters of gratitude for four weeks experienced better, less depressed moods for up to 12 weeks after the study.

  • Better relationships

Another Berkeley Health study concluded that “Gratitude seems to correspond to positive changes in how much we value others. When we express gratitude to someone, we are effectively signaling that, by virtue of their actions, we value them more than we did before—and that we might be more likely to provide benefits to them in the future.”

  • Better health

Berkeley Health also notes the results of the Greater Good Science Center’s Thnx4 project, which shared “participants who kept an online gratitude journal for two weeks reported better physical health, including fewer headaches, less stomach pain, clearer skin, and reduced congestion.”

How to start making gratitude a daily habit

  • Gratitude or thank-you letters

Make a point to write a brief letter to your partner, a family member, colleague or superior and share why you appreciate them. At the very least, you’re making someone feel valued. At the most, it starts to adjust your mindset for the better.

  • In-the-moment appreciation or a returned act of service

Try to start seeking more opportunities to offer verbal appreciation, then consider handwritten notes (or letters previously mentioned), a returned favor or a small token of appreciation. Every time you thank others for a favor, their support or just for being present, you’re not only adding to your likeability, but you’re also establishing rapport.

  • Gratitude journal

Consider challenging yourself to write down at least five things you’re grateful for every day. It could be the help of a friend when moving into a new living space, or those days when you hit every green light on the way to work. If nothing else, taking note of the pleasant mundanities reveals how much they add up.

  • Mindfulness practices

Practicing mindfulness and learning to become aware of small victories has lasting effects. Even a quality exchange with a patient or colleague and taking note of these interactions will help you train yourself to notice more of what makes each day worth appreciating.

Read PracticeLink articles by Alexandra Cappetta

Alexandra Cappetta

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