The Benefits of Gratitude and How to Get Started

September 28, 2021 by Bethany Fulton

There are plenty of reasons to practice gratitude, including benefits to your overall mental health and well-being.

Practicing gratitude can mean different things to different people. From daily journaling to evening prayers, gratitude practice can take many forms.

Read on to find out the benefits of practicing gratitude every day and how to get started.

What does it mean to practice gratitude?

Gratitude is simply defined as the state of being grateful. It involves expressing thanks or appreciation for something, from a gift to life itself.

Gratitude involves recognition of the positive things in your life and how they affect you. This can range from acknowledging a beautiful flower you pass on the sidewalk to the feeling of thanks that comes from recovering from a serious illness.

You can practice gratitude in lots of different ways, like:

  • gratitude exercises, such as journaling
  • paying attention to the little things in life, like the birds in the trees
  • telling someone you’re grateful for them or for something they did, even if it was a long time ago
  • doing something kind for someone in your life to express your gratitude
  • meditating on the positive aspects of your life
  • giving thanks through prayer

Getting started practicing gratitude

If you’re looking to start practicing gratitude regularly, there are plenty of useful exercises to help you integrate it into your daily life.

Gratitude journaling

Gratitude journaling is a technique that involves keeping a diary of things you’re grateful for every day. This is one of the most popular ways to practice gratitude.

Some good starting points are to recount a favorite moment from the day, describe a special person in your life, or list five things you’re grateful for that day.

It doesn’t even have to be a physical journal. It can be as simple as a note in your phone. This makes it easier to quickly record something you feel grateful for in the moment.

Gratitude mapping

Gratitude mapping is perfect for visual learners. It involves creating a visual mood board of everything you’re grateful for. You then place this board somewhere in your home to remind yourself to be grateful every day.

Gratitude jars

Gratitude jars are a simple idea that’s easy to put into practice.

Whenever something good happens or you feel thankful for something, write it down on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. Next time you’re feeling down, give the jar a shake and pick out one slip of paper.

This technique will remind you of something good in your life that you can appreciate. It can help you recall simple pleasures that you might have otherwise forgotten.

Morning meditation

A morning meditation practice can also involve gratitude.

You can choose to meditate on things you’re grateful for, or you may find it easier to meditate on how you’ve gotten to where you are now.

To do this, remember the past, both good and bad. Reflect on how far you’ve come since then. This puts the present into context and allows you to clearly see it, helping you feel grateful for what brought you to this point.

The morning is often the best time to practice gratitude meditation, as it sets you up for the day with an optimistic outlook. It can also be beneficial to use your practice as a way to wind down before bed.

Prayer

Prayer is another way to practice gratitude. Whatever you believe in, prayer can be a helpful tool for generating feelings of gratitude. It’s also been linked to positive health outcomes.

Expressing gratitude to a higher power or simply to the universe can be a profound way to evoke a sense of awe and appreciation. As you pray, you can express gratitude for the world you live in, the air you breathe, and the body that carries you from point A to point B.

Prayer is a chance to marvel at life and the miracle of existence. It doesn’t have to involve a particular belief or tradition, but can simply be a way of giving thanks for being alive.

Volunteering

Volunteering is a practical way to practice gratitude. Helping those in need can inspire you tp reflect on your own circumstances and bring on a sense of compassion for humanity as a whole.

It’s also been shown to improve health and offer several other benefits.

Benefits of practicing gratitude

There are many benefits of practicing gratitude, both mental and physical. Regular practice has been shown to have measurable positive effects on health.

Boosts the immune system

Gratitude has been shown to help contribute to an overall sense of well-being.

Stress lowers the immune response to potential bodily threats, whereas increased mental well-being can help your body fight off illness, according to a 2004 research review Trusted Source.

Practicing gratitude also has the ability to improve other aspects of physical health, with one early-stage 2017 study Trusted Source suggesting it can reduce the risks associated with heart failure.

Improves mental health

Gratitude is one of many factors that contributes to positive mental health outcomes.

One 2020 study showed that regularly practicing gratitude can help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. An older study from 2003 noted that gratitude was linked to improved mood.

Practicing gratitude fosters positive feelings and can contribute to a sense of well-being when done regularly.

Improved relationships

Gratitude not only improves your physical and mental well-being; it may also improve your relationships.

Gratitude plays a key role in forming relationships, as well as in strengthening existing ones.

When it comes to romantic relationships, gratitude can help partners feel more satisfied with each other. One 2010 study showed that partners who demonstrated gratitude toward one another reported increased relationship satisfaction and improved happiness the following day.

Increased optimism

Being an optimistic person can have plenty of health benefits, including healthy aging, according to a 2019 study Trusted Source. If you’re not naturally optimistic, gratitude practice can help you cultivate an optimistic outlook, as suggested by a 2018 study.

In an older 2003 study, it took just 10 weeks of regular gratitude practice for participants to feel more optimistic and positive about their present lives and the future.

Takeaway

Practicing gratitude can be a beneficial daily habit both for physical and mental health. It also offers potential benefits for relationships.

To get started with a gratitude practice, you can try meditation, journaling, or simply paying attention to the little things in life that bring you joy. If practiced regularly, gratitude will likely provide positive long-term effects to your mental health and well-being.

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