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Gratitude and Positive Psychology

Gratitude and Positive Psychology

During the month of November we tend to name things we’re thankful for (hence Thanksgiving), and even into the Christmas and Holiday season we may continue being grateful.  But then January rolls around with its cold weather, rain, and lack of sunshine, and it can be hard to keep up the positivity.  That’s when we have to find the things we’re grateful for to help boost our mood.  There has been much research done recently about the physical and mental health benefits of positive psychology.  The University of Pennsylvania defines positive psychology as “the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive.”  So in short, focusing on the positive things that help us be successful.

I was once told and continue to tell people, “It’s okay to have a pity party, just don’t unpack and stay there.”  If you’re having a bad day, it’s okay to feel sad or upset, but then pick yourself up, count your blessings, and move on.  Being grateful and positive thinking does not mean you have to be happy all the time.  Psychology Today lays out 7 ways that being grateful can help us in our daily lives:

  1. Gratitude improves relationships—We’re no longer just nagging another person in our life about things they’re not doing right. Instead, saying “thank you” for little things that people do helps them to feel appreciated and more than likely take notice and hopefully thank you in return.
  2. Gratitude improves physical health—People that recognize small, every day things that they are grateful for are more likely to take care of their physical health by going to regular check-ups, eating a balanced diet, exercising, etc. Gratitude also helps people to appreciate the good things about their health and life rather than only focus on pain/discomfort.
  3. Gratitude improves mental health—Gratitude tends to decrease the prevalence of negative emotions just as anger, jealousy, and regret. Being grateful helps us to recognize the small things in life that we are happy about, therefore increasing overall happiness.
  4. Gratitude decreases aggression and increases empathy—Individuals that practice gratitude are more likely to treat others well, even when other people are not as nice. Grateful people are more likely to be sensitive to the needs of others and not as likely to seek revenge or retaliate when someone has done them wrong.
  5. Gratitude improves sleep—When we recognize the better things in life and things that we are grateful for, we improve our overall mood which leads to better sleep. Having a gratitude journal or even a notepad is helpful at jotting down things you are thankful for at the end of the day.
  6. Gratitude helps self-esteem—When we identify things we are grateful for in our own lives, we are less likely to compare ourselves to others. There will likely always be someone that is more fit than you, has more money than you, or can even cook better, but appreciating what we have in our own life makes us less likely to be envious of others’ lives.
  7. Gratitude reduces stress and increases resilience—Gratitude can help with moving past trauma. Identifying things in your life to be grateful and thankful for helps to improves resilience, even when times are rough and dark.

Overall, find something to be grateful for every day.  Try to name something different each day instead of naming the same 3 things.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that there is always a silver lining to every situation.

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