We hear it all the time: the importance of being thankful, or showing gratitude. For some people, these words elicit an eye roll or a blank stare (at best). Sure, we know that gratitude is important in an abstract sort of way—but it can be hard to take seriously when our primary mode of interaction with the concept is the #ThankfulThursday hashtag on social media.
In many ways, as a society, we’ve lost touch with the true meaning of gratitude. And that’s understandable—gratitude requires reflection and stillness, two things that can be difficult in our busy, overstimulated everyday lives. As a result, we’re also missing out on the benefits of gratitude, which may be greater than many people realize. As it turns out, the effects of gratitude can be important for our overall well-being for several reasons:
- Improved mental health. If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, gratitude might be the last thing on your mind. However, as it turns out, gratitude could be a key component of helping with your mental health. One study showed that participants who wrote gratitude letters regularly displayed significantly better mental health than those who didn’t. In fact, brain scans suggested that gratitude might even have the power to rewire our brains for the better.
- Improved physical health. Better sleep and immunity? Yes please! Fortunately, neither require a visit to the doctor’s office or a new prescription. Gratitude has been shown to help with both, and may even be linked to reduced pain and improved cardiovascular health as well.
- Stronger social bonds. It’s no secret that people like to feel appreciated. Gratitude kept to yourself can have tremendous benefits. But expressing your gratitude makes it real to you and benefits the recipient. It is also tied to your physical and mental well-being. And importantly, expressing your gratitude often build connections and improve your relationships.
- Resilience. Gratitude has the effect of helping us to refocus on positive emotions. It guides us to take an optimistic, solution-oriented approach to the challenges that we encounter in life. Both of which are hugely important to building resilience. Resilience, in turn, improves our overall quality of life by enabling us to bounce back from the hardships we face.
If the idea of beginning a gratitude practice feels overwhelming or cheesy, keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be difficult. You can start small by setting aside time each day to think or write about three things that you’re grateful for, or writing a gratitude letter once a week. If you’re comfortable expressing your gratitude, set a goal for yourself to tell someone that you appreciate them every day. After all—you’ve got nothing to lose, and so much to gain!
The Institute of Youth Development and Excellence (IYDE) strives for every youth in the world to have access to a trained mentor because of the impact they can have on a child’s life. If you are looking for connection in your life, consider becoming a trained mentor through our organization. Our mission is to provide mentors in every community across the United States with the tools and training for successful and meaningful relationships with their mentees. Placing trained mentors in the lives of youths impacts critical life decisions and influences how they contribute to their communities and society as a whole. It also brings meaning and purpose to the lives of the mentors. Help us make a difference in the lives of children by joining us as a volunteer or donating to our cause today!