The importance of an attitude of gratitude cannot be overstated. So often people say that it’s important to focus on the positive or to try and be thankful for what you have, but do we really understand just how important or beneficial an attitude of gratitude is? Probably not. However, thanks to new research, scientists are discovering that having an attitude of gratitude makes your life happier and healthier.
What Does ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ Mean?
An attitude of gratitude is all about trying to see the positive and expressing gratitude for the things in your life. As some put it, it means making the conscious choice to express your gratitude for everything, from big to small.
An attitude of gratitude is fundamentally a mindset shift. It isn’t necessarily about focusing on a particular activity or following a certain number of steps. Instead, it’s a paradigm shift, a change in how we view the world. Attitudes of gratitude aren’t built on improving your circumstances. In fact, just because you develop an attitude of gratitude doesn’t mean that your surrounding circumstances will necessarily improve.
Instead, cultivating an attitude of gratitude means focusing on the positive things in your environment and expressing gratitude for them. Doing so can keep you from getting stuck on the wrong things while allowing you to meditate on what you already have and avoid what you might think you’re missing.
Attitude of Gratitude Examples
To help us get a clear picture of this mindset shift, here are some examples of what an attitude of gratitude can look like. Attitudes of gratitude can take on many different forms, as people express their gratitude differently or for different things.
In terms of things to be grateful for, people can express gratitude for anything from relationships, health and business to food, running water or a sense of well-being. The reasons don’t need to be big or small — they can be anything you are thankful for.
Methods for expressing gratitude are just as varied. For example, you can apply gratitude to the past by remembering childhood things you’re thankful for or to the present by reflecting on the good things happening to you in the present. Or lastly, to the future by having a hopeful and positive prospective outlook. In sum, an attitude of gratitude is truly just expressing a positive outlook of gratitude for the good things that have, are, or will happen to you.
The Benefits of an Attitude of Gratitude
A gratitude attitude is a critical but overlooked part of developing vibrant mental and physical health. This is because our behavior can affect our biology — how we think and act can change our physical health. As you express gratitude and engage in positive gestures, your body releases oxytocin, a hormone that helps us connect with other people to form deeper relationships.
Expressing gratitude can also improve your mental health. According to a study on expressions of gratitude, people who regularly expressed gratitude had improved well-being, reduced depression and fatigue and slept better. Other studies have connected gratitude to fortifying your immune system, reducing stress hormones and improving your diet by making you more likely to reduce dietary fat intake. The benefits of gratitude cannot be overstated, and cultivating it is critical for mental and physical well-being.
How to Keep an Attitude of Gratitude
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can take many forms. For example, you can write thank-you letters, thank someone mentally or count your blessings, to name a few! In addition, here are two of the best and most important ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude Journal
An attitude of gratitude journal is a fantastic way to improve your gratitude skills. Gratitude journals don’t need to be complicated; simply write something or someone you’re thankful for each day. Even if you’re the type of person who doesn’t think they have anything to be grateful for, using this exercise to find anything, regardless of how small, can allow you to grow instrumentally. In fact, over time, you will grow in your ability to express gratitude and focus on the good things in your life.
The benefits of cultivating gratitude journaling are significant for improving your outlook on life. A study with participants writing a few sentences about their week found that those who wrote about gratitude caused them to be more optimistic and felt better about their lives. People who wrote about gratitude in a journal-like setting became more mentally positive.
Those who choose to cultivate the skill of gratitude journaling can improve their outlook on life. Simply by focusing on giving gratitude and the good things in your life, you can feel better about it. So, if you often feel discouraged about circumstances, expressing gratitude in a journal might be a fruitful exercise to help you develop a more positive outlook on life.
Attitude of Gratitude in the Workplace
While not a method of expressing gratitude in itself, having an attitude of gratitude in the workplace is essential for your team’s productivity and morale. According to a University of Pennsylvania study, managers who expressed gratitude caused their employees to be more motivated and work harder. For the study, they compared a group of employees who received a grateful message from their manager to another group that did not. They found that those who received gratitude from their manager worked 50% harder than their counterparts.
If you’ve ever worked under a manager, this probably was no surprise. After all, people feel more motivated to contribute to a team if they feel valued and their efforts are being noticed and appreciated. Expressing gratitude to your employees does just that — recognizing their strenuous efforts and spurring them on.
So, if you’re a manager with a couple of employees or a team and you’re looking for a way to increase productivity, perhaps you should start by simply thanking them for their efforts and dedication.
Closing Thoughts on Cultivating Attitudes of Gratitude
Attitudes of gratitude make the world a better place. Whether you’re a manager hoping to increase your team’s productivity, someone discouraged by their life or even someone looking to create a more healthy lifestyle, attitudes of gratitude are a great starting place to give you some headway. I think we all could benefit from seeing more gratitude in the world. But to see more gratitude, you need to be putting some out there.
By putting more gratitude into your life, whether by writing in a journal or notes for others, you are already choosing to view life more positively and focus on what makes life better, not what makes it frustrating or discouraging. Obviously, it won’t automatically make your life easy or less difficult, but it can change your outlook and attitude towards it. With this new attitude of gratitude in mind, even if your life doesn’t necessarily get easier, you can make your life feel just a bit easier, perhaps easy enough for it to be manageable and, eventually, enjoyable.
Gratitude may not be a magic pill, but it could be the secret ingredient to a better outlook and mental and physical well-being.
Luke Argue is a junior in the government department at Patrick Henry College. Aside from writing, Luke enjoys playing volleyball, reading about foreign affairs, and studying world cultures and religions.