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  • Writer's pictureRachael Nitz

Gratitude Does More Than You Think

What is Gratitude?


The Oxford Languages Dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” As Christians, I think this is something we are told to do regularly, 

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

But what does that really mean and why should we do it.

 

Gratitude is not a passive process but requires an active effort to gain the benefits. This means creating a habit of looking to the positive things in your life. This can be done via keeping a journal, visualization practices, writing letters of gratitude to others, or simply expressing gratitude to yourself or others as it comes up.

 

It is interesting to note that most religions place a high price and emphasis on gratitude but it is also the most overlooked aspect expressed in humans, but it’s also something humans want and expect from others. See the mixed signals we have there?

 

The Science Behind Gratitude


But what I really want to share with you today is how much scientific evidence there is for the use of gratitude in everyday life.

 

In the last 10-20 years, there has been a big emphasis placed on neuropsychological studies on gratitude. This means they are studying what effect gratitude has on a persons brain, thought process, mental health, etc. Do you know what they have found?

 

Gratitude and the brain 


Studies have found that gratitude will:

 

  • Wire and fire new connections in the brain’s neural network

  • Enhance dopamine and serotonin in the brain which is what is responsible for the feeling of happiness

  • Reduce fear and anxiety because it helps regulate the stress hormone cortisol

  • Reinforces positive thinking skills leading to more positive thoughts


Benefits

 

The benefits extend far past what is going on in your brain. There are benefits to four of the five aspects of health and I argue that the changes that occur in these four aspects would affect the final aspect but I'll let the evidence speak for itself.

 

Physical health


  1. Improves sleep

  2. Lowers high blood pressure

  3. Helps prevents overeating

  4. Motivates you to exercise more

  5. Strengthen the immune system

  6. Improves pain tolerance

  7. Helps keep glucose levels under control

  8. Extends the lifespan

  9. Helps with heart illnesses


Psychological health

  1. Boosts self-confidence

  2. Improves patience

  3. Improves resiliency

  4. Reduces envy and jealousy

  5. Makes you more optimistic

  6. Makes you less materialistic

  7. Makes you more forgiving

  8. Helps battle depression Helps in addiction recovery

  9. Enhances vitality

  10. Enhances spiritualism


Emotional health

  1. Improves mood

  2. Helps manage grief

  3. Helps make memories more positive

  4. Contributes to happiness


Social health


  1. Helps improve friendships

  2. Helps strengthen family supports

  3. Fosters a healthy social circle

  4. Enhances work productivity

  5. Builds better relationships

  6. Improves decision-making skills

  7. Cultivates a sense of fulfillment

 

I think it is crazy to look at that list of benefits, spanning 4 of the 5 aspects of health and not want to get in on that!

 

So, How Much is Enough?

 

I haven’t found any specific number as far as the amount of time recommended to spend being grateful but I have found that it needs to be daily. At least once a day, take the time to list out what you are grateful for. But I would recommend taking the verse from the beginning of this blog to heart…

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

In every situation, find the good to be grateful for. Even in your hardest moments there will be something so grab onto it! Use it! Pull yourself from a dark place but seeing the light in everything.

 

Much love & blessings

Rachael



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