7 Incredible Benefits of Gratitude

Wednesday 19 May 2021

It’s not happy people who are grateful; it’s grateful people who are happy. Unknown

Gratitude is increasingly recognised by neuroscientists, psychologists and social observers as having phenomenal benefits. The list of benefits is enormous; I’ll list a mere seven.

Gratitude:

  1. improves physical wellbeing, with research showing that grateful people experience stronger immune systems and fewer aches and pains;
  2. is linked with greater psychological well-being, with research showing that grateful people experience a reduced number of toxic emotions such as envy, frustration, resentment and regret;
  3. enhances empathy, with research showing that grateful people are more inclined to show greater emotional intelligence and are less likely to retaliate against or be adversely affected by unkind people;
  4. increases mental strength, with research suggesting that gratitude is a major contributing factor to fostering resilience and overcoming trauma;
  5. improves self-esteem, with research showing that grateful people are less likely to engage in soul-destroying social comparisons and are more likely to have the capacity to appreciate other people’s accomplishments;
  6. helps children to achieve higher grades, with research showing that grateful children are more optimistic, experience more social satisfaction, are more able to self-regulate, are more likely to set themselves higher goals, are less materialistic and are more willing to ‘give back’; and
  7. enhances sleep quality, with research showing that reflecting on things you are grateful for before bed can result in better and longer sleep.

Professor Maurice Elias once wrote that the ‘simple act of gratitude is being shown by more and more research to be very healthy for you and those around you. It's not a vaccination; doing it once a year does not provide the most health benefits. Expressing gratitude is like taking a daily vitamin. Its health benefits require consistency and repetition to yield maximum effect.’

Professor Robert Emmons writes, ‘Just because gratitude is good doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Practising gratitude can be at odds with some deeply ingrained psychological tendencies... Gratitude really goes against the self-serving bias because when we’re grateful, we give credit to other people for our success.’

So how can you cultivate a culture of gratitude within your family?

  • When you are waiting at traffic lights, observe a motorist in a nearby vehicle and, despite not knowing the driver, pray for him/her with praise and thanksgiving.
  • After a long wait, when you finally make it to the front of a lengthy queue, look into the eyes of the person serving you and thank them for graciously persisting during this hectic time.
  • At dinnertime, reflect on the past 24 hours and invite every member of the family to share two things they are grateful for. Focus less on what went wrong in the day and almost exclusively on what went right.
  • Keep a family journal of things you are grateful for. Refer back to the journal in 12 months and be reminded of the blessings you’ve experienced. Handwrite a reflective letter of thanks to those who contributed towards the blessings. Don’t forget to send the letter!
  • Consider the work of Australia’s leaders as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. As a family, discuss Australia’s response to the pandemic. You might reflect on the experience of other nations. Send an email thanking Australia’s decision-makers for the sacrifices they are making for the wellbeing of our nation.

Gratitude doesn’t need to be earth-shattering, but it does need to be authentic. We can choose to experience gratitude for things we normally take for granted, such as a warm shower, fresh vegetables, shelter from the rain, a comfortable chair and even the abundance we experience, as evidenced through overgrown gardens, dirty dishes and peak hour traffic.

It’s worth noting, too, that the benefits of gratitude are doubled when they are outwardly expressed towards others.

The point of gratitude is not just to feel it; it's to show it. Experiencing gratitude serves our happiness. Expressing it reminds others how they matter. As an emotion inside a journal, gratitude is fleeting. As an action in the outer world, it lasts. Adam Grant

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- Jane Mueller, Principal