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The Effect Gratitude Has in Our Life

We all want a happy and balanced life. A hobby we get paid to do (job), a group of people that care and support us (family), enough money where we can have a comfortable and peaceful life without loosing ourselves or the people we love (financial security), and time to spend with the people we care for and/or we want in our life (social life). This infinite pursuit can seem like a mirage. How often do we take the time to be grateful for what we have?

Gratitude is a powerful human emotion. By conveying and receiving simple "thank you" messages, we can truly derive the pleasure that we seek everywhere else. Gratitude, from the Latin word "gratia," means gratefulness or thankfulness. In other words, gratitude refers to a "state of thankfulness" or a "state of being grateful."

"Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals. If you aren't grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more." - Roy T. Bennett

Any type of gratitude has the power of enlightening the mind and turn a frown upside down. Whether we are thanking others, ourselves, Mother Nature, and/or your Higher power, it has a healing effect in us! (Russel and Fosha, 2008). Gratitude's benefits are countless, and in this article, we will examine the effects it has, the effects it has in the brain, and how to use gratitude to enhance our life.

Gratitude attracts happiness

Gratitude improves interpersonal relationships at home and work (Gordon, 2012). The connection between gratitude and happiness spans across multiple areas. By being grateful to others and ourselves, positive emotions such as happiness create feelings of bliss and self-fulfilment. It's as if we have our own recycling machine inside where negative thoughts and feelings are turned into tools of change. Gratitude has a direct impact on our health and well-being.

Simple practices such as journaling and/or complimenting ourselves by practicing positive words of affirmations on oneself can have an impactful effect in our life. We attract situations and circumstances due to in part to the words and thoughts that are inside our mind (law of attraction). If you feel sad and use self-deprecating thoughts, you will life in a. reality where you are going to be sad and critical of oneself. But, if you are optimistic and positive with your thoughts, your reality will be of one of opportunity and resiliency.

Gratitude in the workforce

Expressing gratitude in the workplace is a proactive action to building interpersonal bonds, feelings of closeness, and bonding (Algoe, 2012). Workers who are grateful tend to be more efficient, productive, and responsible. When working in a group environment, these people highlight each persons impact and open lines of communications between members.

Employees who practice expressing gratitude at work are more likely to volunteer for more assignments, willing to take an extra step to accomplish their tasks, and happily work as a part of the team. This is partly due because they aren't worried about the outcome, the focus is to enjoy the moment, non-attachment, displacement of the ego.

Only one person who is utterly detached and utterly dedicated, Ghandi says, is free to enjoy life. Asked to sum up his life "in twenty-five words or less," he replied, "I can do it in three!" and quoted the Isha Upanishad: "Renounce and enjoy." Those who are compulsively attached to the results of action cannot really enjoy what they do; they get downcast when things do not work out and cling more desperately when they do. - Eknath Easwaran, "The Bhagavad Gita"

Gratitude and the brain

Gratitude releases toxic emotions

The limbic system is the part of the brain that is responsible for all emotional experiences. It consists of the thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, and cingulate gyrus. Studies have shown that hippocampus and amygdala, the two main sites regulating emotions, memory, and bodily functioning, get activated with feelings of gratitude.

Gratitude reduces pain

Counting Blessings vs Burdens (2003), a study conducted on evaluating the effect of gratitude on physical well-being, indicated that 16% of the patients who kept a gratitude journal reported reduced pain symptoms and were more willing to work out and cooperate with the treatment procedure. By regulating the level of dopamine, gratitude fills us with more vitality, thereby reducing subjective feelings of pain.

Gratitude improves sleep quality

Studies have shown that receiving and displaying simple acts of kindness activates the hypothalamus, and thereby regulates all bodily mechanisms controlled by the hypothalamus, out of which sleep is a vital one. Hypothalamic regulation triggered by gratitude helps us get deeper and healthier sleep naturally everyday. A brain filled with gratitude and kindness is more likely to sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed and energetic every morning (Zahn et al., 2009).

Gratitude tools

Appreciate and love yourself

Stand in front of your mirror or while you meditate, speak out or subconsciously five good things to yourself. These can be from past achievements, present efforts, future goals, and/or talents. Compliment yourself with high vibrational words, such as, compassionate, loving, caring, kind, sexy, etc., and notice how your body feels as you say these words. Repeat this over and over until you can feel the emotion before you verbalise it.


A gratitude journal is your personal space to pen down all the little and big things in life that you are thankful for. As you sit to express gratitude, you will consciously choose to focus on the good memories and might even recollect some long lost happy moments.

Gratitude visits

We all have someone, whose unconditional love and support has lifted us from dark moments. Whether it was your mom, dad, aunt, uncle, and/or friend. We feel that we "owe" them for their support during those trying times. Meet with them once or twice a month to share with them your appreciation with them, how far you have come, exchange memories, and offer them your support. Gratitude visits are great ways to keep positive karma alive.

Embrace happiness

If you feel happy and joyous, don’t shy away from it, embrace it! Remind yourself that you have put in the time and made sacrifices to achieve this and you are deserving of it. Whatever the magnitude of the achievement, acknowledge your feelings and be thankful for the moment. Accepting happiness makes us stronger, confident, and grateful for what we have. This simple act of acknowledge highlights our strengths and increases our confidence in tackling future obstacles that life will present to us.

Find a gratitude friend

Find a gratitude buddy for your daily practice. It can be your partner, your child, your dog, or your friend at work. Set aside time everyday where you and your gratitude friend sit together and discuss what both of you are thankful for. Sharing thoughts of gratefulness with someone is a great way to sustain motivation as well as strengthening emotional skills.

MindfulJuan's thoughts

Practicing gratitude is synonymous to expressing our feelings for others and ourselves. By communicating simple words of love and praise, not only do we help others feel appreciated, but we also feel better of ourselves and our lives. An example is the bar scene from the movie "A Beautiful Mind," when John Nash (played by Russell Crowe) is at the bar with his friends and talks he speaks about governing dynamics. "The best result comes when everyone on the group does what is best for himself and the group." Gratitude is about feeling "good," helping others, and silencing the ego. It's linked with self-discipline, motivation, and love.

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