Here is a little something to remind us of the benefits of a conscious gratitude practice. Science is discovering what so many wise people in various cultures throughout time have clearly understood: that the practice of gratitude is really good for you. It’s good for your body, mind and relationships. So naturally it has been encouraged in many of the different meditation traditions and various practices have arisen due to the great benefits of gratitude.
Gratitude helps us come more fully into the present. It cultivates contentment and positive expansive feelings. The mind takes on the qualities of what it focuses on so a person who regularly feels gratitude develops a happier, more optimistic life and is able to adapt and make the most of life’s situations. A gratitude practice provides excellent training for our mind; it settles the mind and helps it develop the ability to focus.
Gratitude and appreciation helps us improve our relationship with our family, friends, community and the environment as well as ourselves. It is at the heart of effective leadership and team building. It is one of the best ways to start cultivating abundance awareness, which brings such ease and confidence and enables you to express your extraordinary inner creative intelligence and to create the life you really want and achieve your heart’s desires.
There are so many ways to consciously cultivate gratitude in our lives. These include writing a daily gratitude journal with feeling and awareness, consciously appreciating others throughout the day and saying it to them; whether it’s simple things around what they are wearing, or gratitude around tasks that people have done and contributions they’ve made. It’s a very beautiful thing to reflect on the gifts of the day just before falling asleep. This will settle us and also help improve our sleep. And of course we can regularly practice a gratitude meditation. For many of us, gratitude for the gifts of our body, mind and life will help us to improve the most important relationship we have which is the one we have with our self.
Gratitude for others, nature and life will help us improve our general relationship with life. So the benefits of practicing gratitude are enormous on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. When we think of the scale of gratitude from say 0 to 10, mild thankfulness might rate at a 1 or a 2. Appreciation would be a 3 and then we start moving into deeper gratitude around 5 and then feeling so fortunate and blessed around a 7 on the scale, right up to experiencing joy, abundance and bliss at the highest ends of the scale. Practicing gratitude is a powerful pathway to feeling fully connected, joyful and deep peace.
There are so many reasons we want to cultivate gratitude in our life. Research by professor Bono at the California University has identified that teams experiencing gratitude have a much more positive outlook on life. Studies published in the journal of Personality and Personal Psychology identified that daily gratitude practices had a huge impact on cultivating a brighter outlook on life and a greater sense of positivity.
A study in the Journal of Happiness Studies found an association between cultivating gratitude and increased level of performance and higher grades in students. Other studies found that grateful teams were less depressed or envious than their peers.
Gratitude helps us become a better friend and a better person to be in relationship with. A 2003 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude could boost pro-social behaviors such as helping others, lending a hand and giving emotional support to others. There have been studies that have documented the improvement in personal relationships, particularly when you focus on what you are grateful for in your partner.
A 1995 study in the American Journal of Cardiology showed that appreciation and positive emotions are linked with changes in heart rate variability and the researchers considered that gratitude may be beneficial in the treatment of hypertension and reducing the likelihood of sudden death in patients with congestive heart failure and coronary heart disease. A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology Health and Well-being found that people who spent 15 minutes jotting down what they were grateful for in their bed before bedtime fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer.
Just ask any team athlete, including basketballers, soccer players, other footballers, baseballers, cricket players how important it is to build team energy. A study in the Social Indicators Research Journal found athletes less likely to burn out when there are high levels of gratitude.
Gratitude has not only been linked with optimism and positive feelings but also improvements in the immune system’s health. The University of Utah showed that stressed out law students who were optimistic had more immune boosting blood cells than those who were pessimistic.
So gratitude is really a safety mechanism. It helps boost feelings of belonging and decreases feelings of stress. There have been all sorts of interesting research but all you have to do is notice how you feel when you are experiencing gratitude. Notice how you feel in the body: all those good feelings, softening and lightening, ease, expansiveness etc. Gratitude helps us feel more connected, so it’s great for us to have a way of consciously promoting gratitude in our lives. Let’s take action!