We hear it constantly: “Successful people engage in the practice of daily gratitude.” We’ve likely also heard it constantly from our parents during our adolescent years: “Be appreciative and grateful!”
But how many of us truly understand what appreciation is? Furthermore, how many of us truly understand how beneficial gratitude can be to our lives?
Here are the seven ways the simple practice of saying “thank you” to the universe can transform your life… in ways you never thought imaginable.
1. You’ll begin to see the positive in everything
Practicing gratitude on a daily basis will actually change your brain and create new neural pathways that will allow you to see and experience life through the lens of appreciation, where the positives are everywhere.
Your brain is full of neural pathways, many of which were established long before you were consciously aware of your own thoughts, and over time, the ones you have used frequently have ingrained themselves in you.
Frequently used neural pathways like negativity and cynicism are hard habits to curb because they’ve been used for the majority of your life. However, opening the door to gratitude will – if consistently practiced – create new neural pathways and new ways of thinking about and seeing the world.
Perception is reality; change your perception, change your world.
2. You’ll be happier
Researchers told a subject group to keep a daily or weekly “gratitude journal” to track all of the things for which they felt grateful and another group with a “cynicism journal” to note all things that annoyed them during the day.
The findings aren’t surprising: Gratitude practices lessened symptoms of depression, as the subject group experienced higher levels of happiness and emotional well-being.
Practicing gratitude and appreciativeness on a daily basis creates a virtuous cycle in the brain, which is linked to the brain’s reward neurotransmitter, dopamine.
Dopamine is the same neurochemical responsible for feelings of happiness each time you “seek” and “conquer” something in life. Having a positive, dopamine-releasing habit like gratitude will lead to you feeling happier every day.
3. You’ll be a better decision-maker and a reward-seeking risk-taker
Once you’ve established the practice of gratitude and made it a habit, you’ll have much better critical thinking, decision-making processes.
You’ll also be more likely to take risks because you’ll see the positive outcomes of the riskier choice, rather than only noting the negative. So, you’ll be much more likely to reap the rewards of such risks.
4. You’ll be physically healthier
A 2009 study from the National Institutes of Health examined the inner workings of participants’ brains as they emitted thoughts and feelings of gratitude.
Researchers found that subjects who practiced higher levels of gratitude also had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus.
This almond-sized portion of the brain offers valued functions, acting as the link between the nervous system and the endocrine system and regulating bodily functions, like hunger, thirst, metabolism, body temperature, fatigue and stress levels.
This explains the positive physical improvements and overall healthy feelings that are often reported from the simple practice of gratitude.
5. You’ll sleep better, which will curb insomnia and anxiety
Studies have shown that practicing daily gratitude helps with getting a good night's rest, too, leaving behind insomnia and the anxiety attached to it.
6. You’ll live a life of constant blessings
You can blame it on the law of attraction or attribute it simply to your brain’s practiced ability to look for the good — but regardless, the phenomenon is a recurring one.
Once you start practicing gratitude and implementing appreciation into your daily life, you’ll create a snowball effect for blessings, blessings and more blessings. The more you practice gratitude, the more you’ll have to be grateful for.
7. You’ll have healthier relationships
When you focus on what you are thankful for in a relationship, you take the focus and emphasis off of what is missing. When you choose to be happy with what you have with someone else, whether it’s a family member, a friend or a companion, gratitude can be the key to what’s often needed for contentment and happiness: letting things be.
By acknowledging that the relationship isn’t perfect, you lower your expectations and remove the pressures from what you want from the relationship.
This allows you to be satisfied and thankful for what it is. With lower expectations and a greater sense of satisfaction in a relationship, you might realize that you’re actually happy with what you always had.
In order to integrate appreciation into your thoughts each day, you can start your own gratitude journal. Or, you can opt to strengthen your emotional muscle of gratitude by simply waking each day with the thought, “I’m so lucky,” as well as the wonderful feeling that comes with it.