In honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about gratitude. With countless podcasts, books and Ted talks on the subject, it’s no secret that practicing gratitude is important. But how many of us actually do it?
As you grow up, you learn that life can go from 100 to 0 (and vice versa) pretty quickly. One minute you’re up, the next you’re down, and you’re left wondering why the happy times seem to forever be fleeting.
Here’s what’s really going on: When we feel unhappy, stressed or frustrated with our lives it’s because we feel like we’ve lost control. We feel like life is happening to us, and we are the victims of our circumstances. And when we inevitably lose control, we have a hard time being grateful for anything.
The good news is practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be difficult. It comes naturally through enduring life’s hardships and overcoming obstacles – after which you emerge a stronger, wiser version of yourself.
After everything you’ve been through, you start to see things differently. You know what it’s like not having money and then making money; getting your heart broken and finding love again; losing a job and finding a better one. When you reflect on how far you’ve come, you’ll start to truly appreciate where you are today. This completely reframes your perspective.
Now, that we know how to practice gratitude, here are a few surprising reasons why it’s beneficial (reasons that go beyond happiness):
- Promotes restful sleep
Studies show that grateful people sleep better and longer. Not surprisingly, people who are thankful have more positive thoughts before bed, which calms the nervous system (in other words, less of the stress-induced tossing and turning).
- Prevents you from overeating
How? By strengthening your willpower and boosting your impulse control. This allows you to mentally slow down and make smarter decisions.
Try to keep this tip in mind when you reach for that third slice of apple pie. Instead, go write a list of five things you’re grateful for.
- Can make you more patient
Patience is a virtue, and one I admit I don’t always possess. As it turns out, being thankful on a daily basis is associated with more patience and making more sensible decisions. Impatience and having less self-control tend to go hand-in-hand (hence, the slice of pie example above).
“We found that gratitude increases people’s self-control, and it increases their ability to wait,” says David DeSteno, lead author of the study and professor of psychology at Northeastern University. “[When] you cultivate gratitude in your life, it’s like a self-control buffer. It helps you more frequently be ready to resist temptation and do the right thing, whatever that right thing may be.”
- Strengthens your romantic relationships
Being grateful for your partner is scientifically proven to increase connectedness and overall satisfaction as a couple, according to a study in the Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology.
“Gratitude helps both at the start of a new relationship and later when one is working to keep a relationship strong,” says Michal Ann Strahilevitz Ph.D. “So, if you want to woo someone new, show that person that they are appreciated. If you want to maintain and strengthen an existing relationship, express your gratitude for what your partner does for you (be it listening to you talk about your day, being a passionate lover, helping around the house, or anything else that they are doing to make your life better).”
And the best part? Showing appreciation also increases the chance you will receive it.
It’s time we stop taking gratitude for granted – and Thanksgiving is the perfect day to start!