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If you want to feel happy-practice gratitude. 10 scientific proven benefits

10 September 2015

We all have those dates, anniversaries, new year’s eve resolutions or birthdays, when we make our lists of dreams and goals to achieve. There are moments of changes in our lives, sometimes difficult. We focus on what we want from life and much less, on what we are grateful for. We usually take things for granted, including life or health. But actually nothing is for granted.  I recently read somewhere online list of things which we usually regret at older age. Among others, like not travelling enough, staying in bad relationships, lack of gratitude and taking things for granted was mentioned as well.

gratitude3We all have our moments of gratitude. Especially in happy moments, while travelling, watching beautiful sunsets, being in love, achieving some goals. But it is easy to be grateful then. But we do not need to be at the mercy neither of the circumstances or our own emotions.  We do not need to wait for special moments. We can decide how do we feel and allow ourselves for more positive feelings more often. Feeling grateful should be high on our  list with positive emotions.

There are plenty of research available with scientific proof why gratefulness influences positively our mood, health and feeling of happiness. Dr Robert Emmons, researcher, psychologist and professor at Californian University Davis, spent most of his professional career on gratitude. In his articles and books  he summarised the benefits of practicing gratitude:

  1. Being grateful increases our feeling of happiness for about 25 %
  2. It positively influence our sleeping
  3. It increase our life energy
  4. It decrease level of stress
  5. Practicing gratitude, especially while facing difficult situations (seeing positive things for which we can be grateful despite dificulties) helps us to cope with them, at the same time decreasing  chances to face depression later on
  6. Regular gratitude practice builds our psychological immune system and strength
  7. Through stress reduction, it positively supports our immune system
  8. Practicing gratitude, and in the same time not taking life and health for granted, makes us more aware. We exercise more and we eat better.
  9. We forgive more often and we don’t keep negative emotions for too long
  10. We feel joy of life, we are more emphatic and we build stronger relationships with others

Practicing gratitude is not about artificial happiness, colouring the reality, never-ending smile or denying negative emotions, which are part of the life. It is more about putting thing into perspective: yes the situation is bad, yes we face problems, but not all our life is negative and we have other things to be grateful for.

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

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“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

How can you start? 5 ways of practicing gratitude:

  1. Create a gratitude journal. Every day write down things for which you are grateful for. For a new day, morning coffee, walk, your family, friends or travels. Your own intelligence as well.  Whatever comes to your mind. Write at least 10 days every day.
  2. Practice mindfulness. If you have never read or tried mindfulness technic, I recommend you to read books of John Kabat- Zinn.  Focus fully on every moment; be present, here and now. Wake up all your senses. Do you like to drink coffee? Next time celebrate it fully. Feel the bitter, intensive taste without thinking about hundreds of other things. If you cook, be present even while peeling off the potatoes, feel the smell, see the colours, taste. Be present while speaking to your friends or family. Mindfulness is a proven technic which can be practice through meditation,yoga, or  technic which is called “body scan”. I will write separate post about it. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is internationally known for his work as a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher engaged in bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society. He founded its world-renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic.
  3. Master your mind with positive approach. Whenever you experience an obstacle and you fell like complaining, for example for  long queue at the post office, find something positive: there is a queue, but I can read a book while waiting
  4. Compliment others
  5. In difficult situations don’t ask “why me?”. Even if it’s difficult ask yourself : what I can learn from it?.”

My own positive benefits from practicing gratitude:

  • I see my life from another perspective. If every day I am grateful for life which was given to me, for health I have, I am aware that it is not given to me for granted. I can lose it. So I do appreciate every day.
  • With attitude mentioned above, I fight my procrastination (procrastination is a big challenge for me). I try not to keep things for later, as I know that every day is special and given to me. I don’t want to lose precious time.
  • Being grateful in the most difficult moments has been always a challenge for me. Taking lessons from hard experiences always comes after some time. Usually I cry it out first; I swear and fight all type of my emotions. Only after, I am ready to see things from the distance. I have learnt to take my lessons from every situation. Sometimes I take the lesson after many years. It was like that with my mum passing away (and with few other hard experiences).  After many years I understood that I am who I am because of all of my experiences. Yes, some of them I would prefer to avoid. But If I cannot change the past, I can just learn from it. Gratitude does not mean laying to myself that everything is beautiful. And I am not one of those person thinking that suffering somehow ennoble us. Sometimes it does not make sense.  We make sense out of it if we are able to learn something out from it.
  • I do feel more meaning in life. I do not think life is always easy and colourful, but despite all its colours, I see life as something magical and wonderful.
  • I’m learning to see the glass half full. The list of things to be grateful for, is long. Who said I shouldn’t be grateful for the healthy food I’m able to eat? Many people around the world are hungry;  I’m grateful for my family, as I know how the lost taste.;  For people I meet, for every travel or smile and a new experiences;  For the fact I live life without the war.;  For interesting movie created by somebody;  for love and all the taste of life. And for myself as well I am grateful.
  • I feel joy of life more often. With my gratitude list, I see how much I do have. And it does not mean I don’t have dreams or goals. I do have a lot! But if I wouldn’t be able to be grateful for what I already have, how I can be sure I will be happy achieving other plans and making my dreams come true?
  • With practicing gratitude it is easier to face the problems. By writing my list of gratitude I put things into positive perspective
  • Gratitude is connected to my mindfulness practice. Being here and now and present in every moment ( I am still in the learning process though ;)  I will write about it separate post. Putting it into an image: Next time after a long, challenging day at work, when you will take a hot shower, focus completely on that moment: feel every single drop on your skin, the relax feeling it gives you. And the same feeling of laying down into the warm bed sheets while being very tired. This is practicing mindfulness: being present, focusing on moments and things which we normally take for granted. If you ever traveled somewhere far, where you had to take cold showers, in such moments warm water seemed as the biggest luxury. Remember about it always and take the life as a luxury thing. In such way, just a simple coffee, hot shower, meeting friends, dance, sex, good movie or even challenging work will be the biggest life celebration you can have. You will feel grateful for those moments and this is the way to biggest life satisfaction. I can confirm it.  Even though, every time it is a challenge to make such mind set. Now, even when negative thoughts are coming, I am able to switch my focus into positive aspects. I am lucky also to have friends who are open minded and conscious and whenever I put myself into the victim role mind-set , they immediately put my life into positive perspective (biggest thanks to my friend Joanna).

I want my blog to be the mirror of my journey into the healthy, happy life and search of balance. Like most of us, I do search for happiness. There is not a one recipe for that, but I want to share with you things which works for me. Gratitude, mindfulness and yoga helps me a lot. I would also add traveling. I learnt so many things about myself, especially traveling alone to far places.

Health for me means balance between body, mind and soul. As much as we need the healthy food, that much we need healthy habits and thoughts to fuel our mind. We can train our brain with healthy habits, the same as we train our body. So you can be sure you will find more articles for Wellbelicious mind. In the future.

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