“Gratitude and attitude aren’t challenges. They are choices.”
Picture a mountain. Each time it rains, the water finds crevices to flow down. When it rains again, it’s much easier for the rain to pool in those crevices and take the same path. This is how your brain works. When you receive a stimulus (the rain) your mind reacts in the most efficient way possible, which is usually how you’ve acted before. Your thoughts take the same path, over and over again.
Here’s the problem. All of us have default patterns we received from our upbringing and our environment. One of the most widespread human reactions to any stimulus is negativity. Negativity is easy. And negativity is very, very dangerous. Being consistently negative can have a (surprise…) negative effect on your health, sociability, problem solving capability, career, and relationships. Let’s start carving a new path of positivity each time it rains. Enter gratitude.
THE EFFECT OF GRATITUDE ON THE BRAIN
First, here is a collection of over 40 studies over the past decade on the positive effects of gratitude. Through the help of the amazing happierhuman.com, we compiled those studies into a list of very convincing reasons to practice gratitude on a consistent basis. In the next post, will discuss the top strategies to integrate this process.
1. Gratitude makes you happier. Keeping a gratitude journal boosted reported long-term well-being by 10%, which was the same increase as doubling your income!
2. Gratitude makes people like us, and us like people. In two studies with 243 total participants, those who were 10% more grateful than average had 17.5% more social capital, a combination of network, influence, and other traits.
3. Gratitude makes us healthier. Keeping a gratitude journal resulted in 16% fewer physical symptoms, 19% more time spent exercising, 8% more sleep, and 25% higher sleep quality.
4. Gratitude boosts our career. Gratitude makes you a more effective manager, helps you network, increases your decision making capabilities, increases your productivity, and helps you get mentors and proteges.
5. Gratitude strengthens our emotions. Gratitude reduces feelings of envy, makes our memories happier, lets us experience good feelings, and helps us bounce back from stress.
6. Gratitude makes us more optimistic. Optimism in turn makes us happier, improves our health, and has been shown to increase lifespan by as much as a few years.
7. Gratitude reduces materialism. The problem with materialism is that it makes people feel less competent, reduces feelings of relatedness and gratitude, and reduces their ability to appreciate and enjoy the good in life.
8. Gratitude keeps you away from the doctor. Those who engage in gratitude practices have been shown to feel less pain, go to the doctor less often, have lower blood pressure, and be less likely to develop a mental disorder.
9. Gratitude increase your energy levels. Gratitude and vitality are strongly correlated. The grateful are much more likely to report physical and mental vigor.
10. Gratitude helps us bounce back. Those that have more gratitude have a more proactive coping style, are more likely to have and seek out social support in times of need, and are more likely to grow in times of stress.
11. Gratitude makes us feel good. Yet only 20% of Americans rate gratitude as a positive and constructive emotion (compared to 50% of Europeans). Interesting.
12. Gratitude makes our memories happier. Experiencing gratitude in the present makes us more likely to remember positive memories,m1 and actually transforms some of our neutral or even negative memories into positive ones.
13. Gratitude makes you friendlier. Keeping a gratitude journal is enough to make you more likely to help others with their problems and makes you more likely to offer them emotional support.
14. Gratitude helps your marriage. In this study, marriages that lasted and were found satisfying were those with a positivity ratio above 5.1 (five positive expressions to each negative one).
15. Gratitude makes you a more effective manager. Studies have found expressions of gratitude to be highly motivating, while expressions of criticism to be slightly de-motivating (but providing more expectation clarification).
16. Gratitude increases your goal achievement. Those who were instructed to keep a gratitude journal reported more progress on achieving their goals at the end of the study.
Isn’t that enough? It’s not like we’re talking about some sort of breaking news here, like if we learned eating pizza caused weight loss. Man, wouldn’t that be great. Anyway, find time each and every day to be grateful. When you find yourself reacting negatively, consciously cut off that thought pattern and instill gratitude instead.
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