Being on the receiving end of a thoughtful act from someone can leave you feeling happy and positive. These happy, appreciative feelings are part of feeling gratitude. Gratitude comes when you recognize something good in the world and you identify that the source of the good was something other than yourself. And gratitude does more for you than make you feel good. It is a long-studied quality that has been found to bring many positive outcomes to your life and the life of those around you.
The Psychology of Gratitude
Gratitude has interested those in the social sciences and psychology for some time. There has been a lot of interest and research into the purpose of gratitude and its impact on people. Over the years, gratitude has been found to play a large role in personal feelings, interpersonal relationships, and positive actions in society.
What Can Real Gratitude Do For You?
Genuine gratitude for something or someone can bring many positive mental and emotional benefits. It contributes to your happiness and mental health, and it can also improve your relationships and emotional connections.
Receiving a “Thinking of You” card in the mail from a friend or getting breakfast in bed from your partner after a long week at work can make you feel appreciated by those close to you. Having gratitude in these moments for your friends and family has been found to strengthen the relationship you have with them. Being grateful for their considerate gesture helps you focus on the good they do for you in times you need it most. it can instill a desire to return their act of kindness, which ultimately creates a stronger bond between you.
Responsiveness in Relationships
Relationships benefit from gratitude beyond the establishment of stronger bonds. Expressing gratitude for the thoughtful actions of people close to you can also make you a better partner, family member, or friend. Gratitude helps shift your focus from negative thoughts about your loved one to more positive thoughts. It can also help you find forgiveness more easily. All of these benefits can help you and your loved one feel more content in your relationship.
Gratitude has been well studied for its positive effects on people and their relationships with others. One area where gratitude has shown benefit is in its ability to make people happier. Studies have shown that those who focus on and express gratitude towards others feel happier and more fulfilled. Those studied were found to be more optimistic and satisfied with their own life when they took time to recognize the kind acts of others.
Stress and Anxiety Reduction
In addition to gratitude helping people feel happier and more satisfied with their lives, it can help counteract depression and anxiety. Gratitude has been shown in studies to instill optimism, improve forgiveness, and make people more open and agreeable to others and their personalities. It can improve people’s overall mood by helping them find the positive in various situations. While expressing gratitude may be easier said than done for those who suffer from depression or anxiety, working with a therapist to practice gratitude may help reduce symptoms.
Gratitude Helps Everyone
Research shows gratitude is the biggest driver behind people giving back to society. That is because people who feel and show gratitude are more likely to perform positive acts in the future. Think about this: if your coworker brings you a coffee one morning because she knows you have a busy week, you may feel grateful for her act of kindness. A month later when she is struggling to get ready for her daughter’s wedding, you might feel inclined to offer your help. These feelings of gratitude and reciprocation help both of you through difficult times and create a stronger bond between the two of you. Before long it is easy to see how these seemingly small gestures could make a big impact.
How to Cultivate Gratitude
Gratitude is not always an easy quality or state of mind to achieve. While deciding to be more grateful may help you focus on positive acts of others, it is not always easy to shift your thought process. Below are some ways to incorporate gratitude into your life and the lives of those around you.
Gratitude journaling is one exercise that can help you “retrain” your mind to see the positive parts in each day. Using a gratitude journal, you can jot down moments or things you are grateful for. This can be done daily, weekly, or monthly and can include as many things as you would like. By taking the time to write down the things you are grateful for, you may start to see moments you had previously taken for granted. It also helps you recognize all the considerate things those close to you do for you.
Teaching Gratitude to Others
If shifting your own thought processes can be challenging, how can you help others see the benefit of expressing gratitude? The easiest way to influence others is through demonstration and modeling. If you have begun expressing gratitude, even by simply saying “thank you”, people will take notice. They will likely pay even more attention if they see your attitude and mood shift in daily interactions. Demonstrating gratitude to those around you will help them feel more comfortable expressing these feelings themselves, and will further improve the bond and relationship you share with them.
Building Environments of Gratitude at Work and at Home
One of the most important components of gratitude is sincerity. Actions and expressions of gratitude should come from a place of honest appreciation for the actions or words of others. Instead of forcing gratitude, take the time to show those you work with that you are grateful for the work they do. Let them know you appreciate the person they are beyond the tasks they are required to complete for their job. At home, it can be easy to take family members for granted. Make sure you take time to let your family know that you recognize the things they do for you and truly appreciate it. Acts of gratitude don’t have to be grand gestures, they just have to come from a place of sincerity.
Feeling and showing gratitude towards the people in your life can make you happier and improve your relationships with others. Don’t be afraid to show the people in your life that you appreciate the thoughtful things they do for you. You might be surprised at the huge impact it can make.