Being thankful might just be the thing we all need to finish 2020 strong. Stick with me on this. It’s not always an easy task to be grateful—especially when life is hard—but it’s well worth the effort. In fact, gratitude may be more important this year than ever before, because when we make it a habit, it can shape our lives and restore our souls!
So, how do we form an attitude of gratitude? Whatever we do repetitively, whether that’s biting our nails or making time to exercise, slowly becomes a habit. In fact, 90 percent of our thoughts are repetitive, so they become a strong habit. We have to think about the things that we think about!
Did you know that there is actually cognitive science behind the impact of gratitude? Most of us intuitively recognize that it is good to stop and smell the roses every once in a while and acknowledge what we’re grateful for. But a habit of gratitude really changes the brain and body for the better! It affects our bodies biologically. It increases our longevity, our ability to use our imagination, and our ability to solve problems. Ultimately, being thankful changes everything.
Dr. Caroline Leaf, like other professionals in cognitive science, has recognized the impact of gratitude on our brain. If we think differently, we can live differently. Here are a few scientifically proven benefits of being thankful:
1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion.
2. Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people (according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences).
3. Gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kindly, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky.
5. Grateful people sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.
6. Gratitude improves self-esteem. Studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs—a major factor in reduced self-esteem—grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
7. For years, research has shown that gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for—even during the worst times—fosters resilience.
We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Rather than complaining about the things you don’t have, take a few moments to focus on all that you have. Focus on that which is praiseworthy! Research proves that developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the biggest game changers to improve your satisfaction with life.
In fact, when Paul writes about dealing with anxiety, he mentions being thankful as a huge part of the strategy to kick anxiety and start experiencing peace! Check it out:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:6-8 NIV
This year—yes, even starting now—choose to be more thankful than you have ever been before. Focus on developing this new habit of having a grateful heart. Wield this weapon against your enemy. It will be a game changer for your days.
I am living proof that there is a beautiful and transforming power in a grateful heart. Won’t you consider this life-changing habit? It just may be the very best choice you make this year.