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The Importance of Gratitude

Written by: Maddie McGarrah, M.Ed.
The Importance of Gratitude

Practicing gratitude in our daily lives can have multiple benefits on our mental and even our physical health.  One definition of gratitude that I like is, “the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself and represents a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation” (Sansone & Sansone, 2010).  This definition of gratitude allows us to be thankful for the different things in our life whether they are tangible or intangible.

According to the American Psychology Association and Positive Psychology researchers, engaging in gratitude practices can benefit our sleep, increase our satisfaction with life, increase hopefulness, decrease depressive symptoms, increase prosocial behaviors, and increase resiliency.  A study done by Dr. Giacomo Bono at California State University found that teenagers who engage in gratitude had more meaning and satisfaction with their lives and were less likely to use alcohol or drugs, skip school, or engaged in activities that could result in disciplinary action.

Another study by the University of California, by Dr. Paul J. Mills, found that heart patients who engaged in a more grateful attitude were more likely to have better moods, better sleep, were less fatigued, and ultimately improve their physical health related to their heart.  The positive effects of having a grateful mindset and engaging in gratitude practices really can make a difference.

One way to start engaging in a gratitude practice is by starting a gratitude journal.  This could be as simple as at the end of the day or end of the week writing down 3-5 things you are grateful for.  This is not meant to ignore or dismiss challenges that you may be experiencing in your life but is meant to help be a reminder that amid challenges or suffering there is still often something to be grateful for.

Another easy way to practice gratitude is to write letters to others in your life for what you are thankful for about them.  You can even write a letter to yourself to reflect on what you appreciate about yourself and what you bring to the table.  So, now take a moment to just think to yourself 3 things you are grateful for and reflect on what that practice was like for you.  We can all benefit from being more grateful and I hope that you will find a way that best works for you and brings more fulfillment to your life.