Gratitude: Why should we practice the art of giving thanks

Gratitude.

We tend to associate gratitude with receiving something from someone or from universe. It can be a compliment, a gift, or even just good fortune. But gratitude can be more than random experiences.

In Wikipedia’s words:

“Gratitude is regarded as a feeling of appreciation (or similar positive response) by a recipient of another’s kindness.”

In practice, gratitude is an action that we can cultivate and turn into a daily habit that brings us many benefits.

A number of studies have shown that those who practice gratitude consciously and consistently tend to be happier and less prone to depression. Gratitude has also been found to enhance social relationships and physical health.

All right, let’s dive in.

How do you define gratitude?

Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California who specializes in the science of gratitude, says gratitude has two components: 

  • Recognition of goodness. Our inner confirmation that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we have received and continue to receive.
  • Seeing that these blessings come from sources beyond us, that other people, perhaps higher powers, give us gifts that help us find the good in our lives.

It is a good exercise to recall a moment when you received a significant gift, whether it was material or not. Now, recall how it felt in the body. What emotions does it bring up?

It is true that this practice brings up an experience that is probably extraordinary in its intensity, but more refined levels of gratitude can enhance our lives and make us feel happier.

What are the benefits of practicing gratitude?

Having defined gratitude, let’s look at why we should practice it every day. As I mentioned before, there is quite a bit of research on gratitude, and some studies show that giving thanks improves our lives. I have collected a few examples.

Our physical well-being

There is growing evidence that gratitude reduces blood pressure, improves sleep quality, and balances cholesterol levels. A 2012 study found that people who are grateful experience fewer aches and pains.

Gratitude also contributes to our health through a positive attitude, which in turn makes it easier to make healthier choices such as exercising regularly and eating healthy.

Our relationships

Expressing gratitude helps us build strong social connections since giving thanks motivates us to see the goodness in others. 

A study found that gratitude can be a social marker, allowing others to see us as worthy partners. 

In another study, gratitude was found to increase our level of support from others, as well as attract positive people to us. 

Our mental health

Gratitude has a powerful effect on our mental health. In fact, Robert Emmons, who was mentioned earlier, published a book called “Thanks! : How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier”.

There is a lot of information in the book that is based on studies conducted with thousands of participants around the globe, by a variety of researchers. One of the conclusions of the research is that practicing gratitude can increase happiness measures by 25%.

There is a fascinating study from 2016 that collected about 300 adult participants seeking mental counseling at the university. All of them reported low mental functioning primarily related to depression and anxiety.

They were divided into 3 groups. In one group, participants sent letters of gratitude to another person every week, for three weeks. In another, participants wrote about their deepest thoughts regarding negative experiences, and in the third group, participants wrote nothing at all.

What were the outcomes? Compared to the other groups, the first group reported significantly higher levels of mental functioning, both four weeks and 12 weeks after writing practice.

The practice of gratitude

Following all this, if you also believe that giving thanks is something worth practicing to live a healthier and happier life, the next step is to learn how to incorporate it more often into your life.

As with most things I talk about on my blog, gratitude is also a matter that requires dedication. 

The approaches, techniques, and small actions in this section will help you make gratitude a more significant part of your life.

A gratitude journal

Gratitude journaling is probably among the most popular ways to practice gratitude daily. The principle is very simple – to write down a few things we are grateful for every day.

Daily writing: It takes consistency to form a habit. Writing about things we are grateful for over time builds a new form of observation within us, even when it is difficult to feel optimistic or joyful. When and where are not critical, only consistency. Write in the evening or in the morning, whatever is convenient and pleasant for you.

Feel it: Even though it may seem abstract, when you think about something that you are grateful for, try to see how and where it feels, and recognize its gift.

If we just write for the sake of it – as a technical gesture lacking depth and meaning – then we will not achieve the results we discussed in part one.

Write it: As for a diary, the idea is that you don’t leave it in your head. Write freely, acknowledge everything that arises within you. Writing itself anchors gratitude in our reality and makes it a significant part of our day-to-day lives.

Gratitude Journal
Practice daily | Feel It | Write it

Gratitude as a habit

Gratitude is a great example of something that should become a habit, and I like to take advantage of what we know about forming habits.

As I mentioned in my previous article, there are quite a few things you can do to establish a new habit.

You might consider adding a new habit to an already existing habit. In such a case, the formula would look something like this (for example):

“At the dinner table, each person will say one thing that they are thankful for today before we start eating.”

“When I sit down with my coffee in the morning, I will write down three things I am grateful for.”

Habits can be connected in a very simple and efficient way using an existing trigger that motivates us to act.

Another method is to define a very small and easy habit that we can sustain for a significant period of time. The most important thing about habits is how long I stick with them, no matter how small they are. In the long run, it’s better to express gratitude every day rather than once a month for three hours.

Visual reminders

Our habits are often activated by visual cues. For example, if we wish to have a better snacking habit, we should probably place a colorful fruit bowl in the dining room instead of a cookie jar.

It is easy to understand why when it comes to dietary habits, other habits can also benefit from a visual trigger.

In order to remember our intentions, we can find ways to remind ourselves throughout the day to give thanks. A coffee mug with a relevant quote, an object that reminds us of thanksgiving. Even a small note hung above the desk can serve as a reminder.

There are many quotes on gratitude that can inspire this quality within us.

Express gratitude in front of others

There are ways to express gratitude within ourselves, but it is much more effective to do so in front of others. This is what is meant by making giving thanks a social act.

Our gratitude can be expressed in letters and emails to family, colleagues, or to the bank clerk who handles our documents. It is important not to take giving thanks lightly. 

For fear of making others uncomfortable, we hesitate to express our sincere gratitude. However, research (and reality) show that people like to feel appreciated for their efforts.

Mindfulness meditation

Keeping it simple, mindfulness allows us to stay focused and in the present moment, instead of getting swept up in our thoughts.

If we are constantly preoccupied with what was and what will be, it is impossible to feel gratitude.

Being present for even a few minutes a day is a great way to make room for gratitude.

What is the best way to do that?

You can find a teacher or a group, or even use a YouTube guide as a starting point. But the principle is simple – pay attention to the breath. Whenever your attention drifts to anything else, gently and guiltlessly bring your attention back to the breath.

A habit of just 10 minutes of meditation a day can gradually lead to a space of gratitude, peace, and focus (a wonderful way to cope with distractions).

To conclude

Giving thanks is easy to feel when everything in our lives is flowing smoothly. Since such moments are not taken for granted, they should be celebrated, cherished, and acknowledged.

In contrast, when life challenges us, reality weighs us down, and it seems as if nothing is going according to plan, gratitude can be the tool that turns the tide. It is hard to connect to the frequency of gratitude in these moments, but through daily practice, it becomes easier and more rewarding across all spheres of life.

About The Author

Gilad Peled

Gilad Peled

Hi! I'm Gilad, a passionate writer about Digital Wellness, Holistic Productivity and Biohacking. A proud dad, digital entrepreneur and life-coach. Happy to share the knowledge I picked up along the way.

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