Many of us should be in a perpetual state of gratitude, some experts suggest. That’s because the feeling of being grateful can be beneficial for the brain.
Which of these options do you have at your disposal right now? Family. Friends. Love. Health. Free from war and natural disasters. Imagination. Community. A roof over our heads. Common decency. Hope. Opportunity. Memories. Financial stability. Favorite places. Days off from work. Good time. The golden age of television. Books. Music. Ice cream. Weekends. A friendly exchange. Something good happened today. Something bad that didn’t happen today. A nice cup of coffee.
You might not have everything you want (or even need) from my list or yours, but that probably still leaves buckets — not shipping containers — full of tangible, conceptual items to be grateful for.
Things can always be better, but they can always be worse too. It often depends on how you look at that proverbial glass of water, whether it’s half empty or half full.
To get in touch with gratitude better — and reap the health benefits it brings — the trick is to find easy ways to count your blessings more often than, say, during an annual celebration dinner. Keep your gratitude bubbling in the forefront of your mind and you will increase your overall appreciation of life.
Try to be more grateful for the little mundane things that give you joy and meaning, as well as the big ones. Recognizing just a handful of them a day will benefit you, and there are ways to make it a habit.
grateful = healthy
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of expressions of gratitude is that they are closely linked to increasing feelings of happiness — for both givers and receivers.
In an episode of the podcast by CNN Chasing Life, Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviewed Christina Costa, a professor and doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan who has studied neuroscience and psychology. She explained how you can see gratitude in brain scans.
The sensation turns on the “feel-good” neurotransmitters of dopamine and serotonin, which Gupta also pointed out decrease hormones like cortisol, which is associated with stress. “The neurotransmitter reactions are quite immediate,” Costa said.
“It’s hard to feel bad when you’re focusing on someone you’re so grateful for, something that changed your life, or something that’s going really well today.”
Resilience, including the ability to deal with stress and trauma, is also correlated with gratitude. Studies have shown that counting blessings was a factor in managing PTSD for Vietnam War veterans and an effective coping strategy for many after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Other research shows that the more grateful you are, the more likely you are to show patience and self-control.
It can even be good for marriages and relationships: Couples who are good at showing gratitude tend to be “more committed and more likely to stay in their relationships over time.” Our best selves, it seems, are our most grateful selves.
Studies have shown that gratitude can also indirectly influence physical health. “Gratitude strengthens your immune system and helps you feel less pain,” Costa said.
Those who have “dispositional gratitude” – defined by one study as “part of a broader life orientation towards realizing and appreciating the positive in the world” – are more likely to report good physical health, a propensity for healthy activities, and a willingness to seek help. for health problems.
In another study, New York teens ranked as the most appreciative of their classes — defined by “having a disposition and mood that allowed them to respond positively to the good people and things in their lives” — were less likely to use drugs and alcohol. .
The benefits of having more gratitude also correlated with the benefits to the heart among patients who suffered from heart failure.
Being grateful can even give you a better night’s sleep. According to research involving college students who instituted various methods to increase gratitude, such as a gratitude journal, they worried less at bedtime, in addition to getting more and better sleep.
In another study, adults in the UK (40% of whom had sleep disorders) reported that thinking about what they are grateful for at night led to them falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer.
Convinced? Let’s get to the fun part.
How to Raise Your CG (Gratitude Coefficient)
I am currently conducting two completely unscientific gratitude-enhancing experiments. For nearly two years, I have kept a gratitude journal. And for the last five years or so, my family has been involved in a dinner ritual called “Roses, Thorns and Buds,” which brings out the same details.
Much has been written about these and other gratitude experiments, and it should be noted that there are no rules or even standards that govern them. We’re in very, very soft science territory here. But credible research shows that everything you do to increase gratitude pays off; So it pays to find out what’s easy, enjoyable, and effective for you.
A gratitude journal doesn’t have to be any more complicated than keeping a notebook by your bed and starting the nightly habit of writing down who and what you were grateful for that day. Journaling was the default method for some of the studies cited above, so this is a simple but effective option.
I’m getting two years into trying this mode, and I’ve added one more thing you might want to consider. After a year, I took the time to add up all the mentions. My wife and kids were, predictably, at the top, reminding me how important they are.
But I was surprised to see that co-workers, neighbors, and a city park all rated highly.
It was helpful for me to review it this way, because when I see these people, I have this added layer of positive feeling about them at the forefront of my mind. It’s hard to be upset with someone when you think, “I’m often grateful for that person.”
It was fun playing with the dice too. By category, “family” was the clear winner (1,011 cases) for me, followed by “places” (269 cases, with coffee shops being the largest subcategory), “friends” (259), “coworkers” from CNN (197) and “experiences” (133). Additionally, “Star Wars” (11) outperformed both beer (10) and books (8).
It will be interesting to compare the second year totals with these. All of this is bringing me closer to understanding and remembering what I am most grateful for.
“Roses, Thorns and Buds” has been part of so many family dinners that I’ve forgotten where we first heard about it. It’s quite simple: everyone at the table takes turns sharing “roses”, which are something positive and happy in their day; “thorns,” which are the opposite of this; and “buttons” for something we’re looking forward to and predict will be a rose. Sometimes the family meal and sharing these things itself is a rose.
True, the “thorn” doesn’t necessarily increase gratitude—although it’s still helpful from a family discussion, empathy, and problem-solving perspective. And if you can fix a problem, a rose can grow in the place of that thorn.
Here are our unscientific findings: Each time, we find that we have too many roses and buds and usually just one thorn to share.
Friends have told us about effective variations on this technique, so one size fits all. If the metaphor is too flowery for you, choose another one.
The important thing is to connect with gratitude in this way, whether it’s most nights or the occasional weekend. It’s also an easy way for kids to get into the habit of saying thank you.
The Jar of Happiness, a strategy popularized by “Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert, is something of a hybrid of a gratitude journal and “roses, thorns and buds.” The idea is to write down on a piece of paper the happiest moment of the day and put it in a jar.
The advantage of doing it this way is that, in moments of unhappiness, you can take the papers into the jar and be reminded of those moments, perhaps becoming grateful for them again.
Gilbert was amazed at how many of her fans have shared photos of their decorated happiness jars (see Pinterest if you need inspiration) and how their happiest moments are “generally very ordinary, peaceful and normal.”
And there are other experiments to try. You can set alarms or reminders on your phone to pause and think about something you’re grateful for at different times of the day: Mornings help set the tone for the day, and reflecting on work can be particularly helpful. You can record them in a gratitude journal app.
Or you can just focus on the simple act of saying thanks and say it more often. It’s worth writing thank-you letters (or emails if you want to be faster and more frequent) to those you’re grateful for. You can also express gratitude with gifts, flowers, and favors.
Or simply make a list of all the things we take for granted but would be so unhappy to lose, like job security, health, seeing loved ones. Review this list each week, for example.
Whichever way you start to infuse your life with more moments of gratitude, both short-term and long-term, you will be grateful you did.
Source: CNN Brasil