“What’s the point of crying over spilled milk.” You must have often heard people say that and Yes, it is true! Self-pity can be undermining yourself to a level where you are unable to see any other perspective. It sucks you into an endless abyss. The easiest and most simple way to get out of moaning and complaining is by following the “attitude of gratitude.” It is the power of the spoken word – either written down as affirmations, in your gratitude journal or said silently to your heart – that is life-changing.
“The more grateful you are, the more you get to be grateful about. It’s that simple.” Louise L. Hay
Gratitude may seem a very simple word or emotion, but it has a greater power within, that can change your life.
Hard to believe, right?
I can give you an excerpt from my life itself.
Every time I asked for advice from some of my loved ones, most of them would say be grateful and everything will be okay.
This statement after a point made me feel agitated and annoyed. I found the word gratitude very cliché. Thus, I never saw the purpose of being grateful.
Someone like me who was always negative about herself and part of me still is was affecting my outlook towards life. I am blessed with the best but I took everything for granted. Until one day, I was all alone in a foreign country among strangers.
That feeling of loneliness, being lost and confused hit me real hard. I realized how I took everything for granted back home. I struggled to survive in a new country physically but mostly mentally.
For me writing down my thoughts and feelings was very important and I always kept a journal next to me. In those trial days, I wrote down every negative thought that I would emote. Even so, I blamed the higher power for everything wrong that was happening in my life until I came to a point when I stopped writing my thoughts and feelings.
Then this happened.
One boring evening after work as I lay in my bed, out of random thought, decided to read my journal. After reading my journal, I realized that all the things that I blamed for and was angry about and did not have were actually received by me in the last few days.
I broke down in tears and the first thing that I said was “THANK YOU”.
“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu
We never realize how subconsciously our mind works or how the Higher Power works (for those who believe in one) in our lives in times of trials and tribulations.
That very moment, the word Gratitude became my favorite word in the dictionary.
There were times when I would go off-track and rant about how everything is going wrong and life is unfair. However, when I calm down and mentally go through my thoughts, I realize that all of this happens for a reason, a reason for your good.
Importance of gratitude in life
A world where everyone is obsessed with comparing their own lives with that of the other, without knowing what the other side might be going through. We are clinically consumed by the fancies of other people’s lives on social media.
We are living in a society that projects consumerism on a large-scale. Thus, we become ungrateful for the things that we have in our lives and crave for more and more things that are not a necessity.
There is a thin line between want and need that we tend to over cross many times. I know of a few people in my social circle that only “want” things because the others have it. Without knowing if they really “need” it or not.
How can we be grateful in a world that snatches away our freedom, security, and power? In such situations, it is very easy to be ungrateful.
You might wonder how can you be grateful when your life is under a fix filled with turmoil such as failure of any sort or financial loss that you can’t seem to pass?
However, if you find yourself in such a situation, don’t beat yourself up about it. In fact, each one of us has gone through something like that. All we need to do is to be grateful for what we already have in our lives. It might seem difficult but it is a process, a journey. In fact, gratitude is the most direct pathway to success. The only problem is that most of us view happiness and gratitude only based on achievement rather than a step by step process.
Happiness and gratitude should not be conditional and situational. When we have an attitude of gratitude towards everything in life especially towards ourselves, miracles tend to happen. At first, you might not see a difference but slowly and steadily you will notice changes within yourself.
Recent studies prove that being grateful for all that you have on a regular basis leads to feeling more optimistic and greater satisfaction with life. It also has amazing physical and emotional benefits.
“I have noticed that the Universe loves Gratitude. The more Grateful you are, the more goodies you get.” – Louise Hay.
How Gratitude Can Change Your Life
1. It releases happy hormones
By incorporating kindness, compassion, and gratefulness in our day-to-day routine, we release a hormone called the oxytocin. Therefore, this hormone is popularly known as the happy hormone or the cuddle hormone. It floods through our limbic system that makes you feel an endless amount of love, empathy, positivity, and happiness.
2. Increases energy levels in your body
Practicing gratitude towards others can make you feel less tired or fatigued. You tend to be motivated and more energized to perform your activities. There is an adrenaline rush in your body because of all the positivity that you are feeling and emoting. It pumps your energy levels. Studies prove that those who practice gratitude are likely to focus more on exercising.
3. Improves the quality of your life
By adopting the simple behavior of gratitude, you improve not only your physical health but your mental, spiritual and emotional health as well. It reduces the risk of heart diseases and other health-related ailments. People who express more gratitude experience lesser aches and pains, better sleep, and stronger mental clarity.
Gratitude makes you feel happy thus reducing stress and anxiety levels, Those suffering from depression find it difficult to practice gratitude as they are absorbed by the negative energy around them. However, once they walk on this path of gratitude (which is a task for them), depression will leave their side and fill it with a positive aura.
Being grateful turns aggression into love, empathy, and sensitivity towards others. Hence, gratitude is like a magic wand that makes negative emotions disappear and replaces it with joy, happiness, excitement, and content.
“Gratitude is no cure-all, but it is a massively underutilized tool for improving life-satisfaction and happiness.”
4. Improves Self-Esteem
Studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Since the onset of social media, we tend to compare our lives with the others and are resentful towards others who have more money, a better job, a big car, a privileged vacation, a bigger house, more friends. As a result, this leads to reduced self-esteem and self-confidence.
However, practicing and being grateful, you learn to appreciate other people’s accomplishments and acknowledge more what you have in your own bag. You tend to become less self-centered and materialistic.
Always remember that everyone’s journey to success is different from your own and it all comes together at the right time.
5. Opens the door to more relationships
According to a 2014 study published in Emotion, saying “thank you” not only represents good manners but showing appreciation can help you win new friends as well. Thus, thanking a stranger for holding the door or to a waiter for bringing your food to the table most likely lead to an ongoing relationship.
In the same manner, send a thank-you note to your colleague who helped you with a project or acknowledge other people for their help and kindness. This leads to new opportunities in your personal and professional life. It helps you to network better.
In terms of personal relationships, couples who express gratitude increase feelings of belonging, ward of feelings loneliness and isolation, and prompt to be less aggressive and more forgiving, understanding and loving.
“Enjoy the little things. For one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault
6. Gratitude improves the quality of sleep
Spending a few minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, can help you to sleep better and fall asleep faster. You experience with few disruptions and are more likely to get up feeling refreshed and happy.
In a recent study, 400 healthy participants who had high scores on a gratitude test experienced better sleep. As a result, the participants showed improved sleep quality, increased sleep duration, faster time to sleep, and less difficulty staying awake during the day.
7. Increases your Productivity
Since gratitude increases self-esteem, self-confidence and reduce insecurity, it automatically suffices the need to help you focus on your work and and improve productivity.
Many of you suffer from insecurities or are deep tied down with worries. This affects your focus and productivity at work. You might wonder those who seem confident have no woes to worry about. However, you are wrong, they have taught themselves to direct all their focus and attention to their work.
Successful people practice gratitude and do not tie themselves with tensions that bring down their productivity. In their conscious and subconscious mind, they know that everything will work out at its own pace and whatever happens they will be grateful for it.
The Science Behind Gratitude
Gratitude is fairly new in the lens of scientific studies. Studies and research have been conducted to understand how gratitude can change your life. In a research study, after eight weeks of practicing gratitude, brain scans of individuals showed a stronger brain structure for empathy. As a result, gratitude changes your brain for the good.
In the same manner, gratitude has proven to ease symptoms of post-traumatic stress. How so? By writing thank-you notes and being thankful and grateful for the countless blessing one has. Gratitude reduces depressive symptoms and encourages people to be more mindful of what makes them happy and feel alive.
Research on Gratitude by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, Psychologists were conducted. However, the aim was to examine how gratefulness affects the psychological and physical well-being. Here, 192 undergraduate participants were divided into three Groups.
Each participant was given one report per week listing blessings, hassles or life events.
First Group – wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred every week for 10 weeks.
Second group – wrote about hassles or things that caused them irritations and agitations.
Third group – wrote about life events that had affected them either positive or negative.
The participants who wrote about their gratitude condition felt much better about their life, a higher optimistic approach and expectation from forthcoming weeks as compared to other groups. The others wrote about hassles and life events.
The groups said to have lesser physical complaints and exercised much more. However, there was no effect on their gratitude regarding global or negative affect.
As per the findings: “The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.”
The second study was similar in most respect other than the records in diaries were on a daily basis for to weeks. The third group on life events was replaced by a downward social comparison focused group. Moreover a wider spectrum of well-being outcomes were added as compared to Study 1.
This time there were 157 participants.
Study 2 observed a number of beneficial emotional effects of paying attention to what is grateful for. When people were in a state of gratitude for 13 days they experienced higher levels of positive affect. Two weeks was too little time to change their exercise habits.
The participants helped someone who had a personal problem in some way or offered their emotional support – proving that they were motivated due to the study.
Study 3 had three main objectives:
a) Study 3 was extended upto 3 weeks to observe the results of gratitude in relation to the time they lasted.
b) Added adults with chronic diseases to the existing participants of healthy college students.
c) To analyze if the benefits in Study 2 could be duplicated in another study. Do these effects take place in relation to the participants’ close ones? Thus, the spouse rated effect and life satisfaction was added.
As per Study 3, it was found that being in a gratitude condition had far-reaching positive effects, improved quality of sleep, much more enthusiasm and a sense of being content.
With the intervention of gratitude, there were reduced negative effects. Thus the study can deduct “gratitude as a conscious cognitive strategy might affect psychological well-being.”
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
― William Arthur Ward
Gratitude and it’s presence in Religions worldwide
You will find gratitude mentioned and applied through historical times and different cultures. It has been an active form of expression and experiences – an integral part of our social thread binding human beings together. Most of the religions like Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu lay high emphasis on this human disposition.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” – Bible
“If you give thanks, I will give you more.” – Quran
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us be thankful.” – Gautam Buddha
Other studies also prove how gratitude can improve relationships. For example, a study on couples showed that individuals who attentively and lovingly expressed gratitude for their partner felt more positive toward their better half. They also felt a sense of comfort in expressing concerns about their relationship.
Managers who remember to and often say “thank you” to their employees find that they feel motivated to work harder.
However, many people think gratitude is effective only when one is successful. It is a notion they have that successful people have more to be grateful for because they have everything. Well, Gratitude is not about money, jobs, success, cars, houses, jewelry or anything else.
Gratitude is something that keeps you feeling content, happy and does not take you off the rails. Therefore, practice gratitude to fill your life with positive thoughts, feelings, and affirmations. Let happiness, love, peace, contentment, and joy fill your life and blow away everything negative from your surroundings.
Do not let anger, irritation, aggression, frustration, criticism, and comparison take over your mind.
Therefore, be grateful and appreciate the little things in life. It really is the little things.