10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Gratitude

Feeling grateful is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. According to Psychology Today, “Gratitude is the expression of appreciation for what one has. It is a recognition of value independent of monetary worth.” This affirmation could be expressed endlessly and about practically anything at all. It promotes a feeling of warmth and goodness within us. It makes us present. It pushes us to enjoy what is right in front of us, which for many of us, is a feeling often pushed aside. 

The practice of gratitude is not new to our world and has been used as a survival method for quite a long time. However, it seems more important than ever in today’s society. Let’s dive deeper into gratitude and all of it’s amazing effects on our mental state. Here are 10 things to know about the psychology of gratitude.

Gratitude is an emotion.

Gratitude is a positive emotion. Feeling the emotion encourages us to focus on the good in our life. This can refer to:

  • the house we live in
  • the friends we have
  • the hot cup of coffee we are drinking before work
  • r the sun shining after days of rain.

Regardless of what we are expressing our gratitude for, the emotion is an important thing to feel for our daily happiness. 

There are 3 stages to gratitude.

While gratitude is one feeling or emotion, experts believe that there are actually 3 stages to experiencing gratitude. According to Kathline Colvin, Ph.D, knowing how to truly experience each stage can have it’s own set of benefits and rewards. Colvin describes them as follows…

Stage 1: feeling grateful for the wonderful things in your life.

Stage 2: expressing gratitude to the people who contribute to your life and make it better.

Stage 3: making gratitude your state of being so that you can lead a life full of sympathy, understanding, and a greater appreciation for life in general. Essentially, adopting this philosophy to the fullest extent.

Gratitude can be used as a practice.

We can practice gratitude in many different ways. The practice may also look different for everyone. For some individuals, just being around friends and family that you love can be a great way to feel grateful. Or this example: you have two job offers. Rather than being stressed out, be grateful to have choices in front of you. Regardless of how you practice gratitude, the goal is always the same. That is to to be more appreciative of the life you have. 

We can express gratitude for anything and everything.

It is easy to assume that gratitude has to be used to describe something large. For example:

  • our career
  • our family
  • our home

However, there are things all around us every single day that deserve our thankfulness. We can be grateful for things:

  • as simple as our morning tea
  • as common as our furry best friend
  • as surprising as our Christmas bonus from work.

There is no limit or rules to gratefulness. The more we expressed the emotion, the happier we will be. 

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There are mental benefits to expressing gratitude.

When we express gratitude, we open ourselves up to many mental/psychological benefits. Research has shown that some of these incredible benefits include:

  • Improved mood and overall happiness
  • Better sleep patterns
  • Decreased symptoms of depression
  • Decreased symptoms of anxiety
  • Help with managing chronic pain
  • Decreased risk of disease

There are physical benefits to expressing gratitude.

Practicing gratitude also opens us up to a many physical benefits. While some of them are related to the amazing psychological benefits, it is quite extraordinary for a mental act to affect us physically. Some of these physical benefits include:

  • Increased energy levels 
  • Increased immunity 
  • Decreased risk of disease
  • Help with managing chronic pain
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Decreased inflammation

Gratitude may be contagious.

Just like a smile can be contagious, so can gratitude. This positive emotion can be felt by people around you and will more than likely be passed around. Has someone ever told you how much they appreciate you and how important you are in their life? Did this make you realize the same about them? Did it even encourage you to tell others in your life that you are grateful for them? This is just one example of how amazing expressing gratefulness is. Gratitude is the good kind of contagious. 

Gratitude journals can be helpful prompts.

While gratitude has long been practiced by people around the world, gratitude journals are all the rage right now. You will likely see them front and center at any bookstore or gift shop. They include prompts that encourage you to write down on paper what you are grateful for each day or week. For example, one prompt may read “what is something great that happened to someone you love recently?” or “what amazing three things happened to you today?” Gratitude journals are a great way to make expression gratitude a part of your daily life. 

Expressing gratitude in a relationship can have positive effects.  

When we have been in a romantic relationship for some time, it can be easy to forget about the parts that were so important in the beginning. For example:

  • writing love notes to each other
  • going on dates
  • making a surprise dinner.

Expressing gratitude in your relationship is a great way to show that regardless of how long you’ve been together, how busy your schedules are, or the fact that your marriage proves your love, you still see your partner for the incredible person they are. You are grateful for what they contribute to your life. Practicing this can have long term positive effects. This philosophy applies to platonic relationships as well. Tell your friends you’re grateful for them!

Feeling gratitude can improve experiences. 

According to Harvard Health Publishing from Harvard Medical School, “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.” It goes on to say that gratitude helps people:

  • feel more positive emotions
  • relish good experiences
  • improve their health
  • deal with adversity
  • build strong relationships.

Regardless of what you are experiencing, whether it be a vacation, dinner with a new friend, or a walk alone in the woods, feeling grateful for the moment you are in will greatly improve your experience. 

Related Resources:

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