The Importance of Gratitude

Gratitude can improve your health, happiness, and even your GPA! Learn how to be more grateful here.
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Gratitude can improve your health, happiness, and even your GPA! Learn how to be more grateful here.

As we anxiously count down the days until we get to reunite with friends and family over Thanksgiving break, we should take this time to count our blessings, as well. Being grateful is a virtue that can drastically improve the quality of our lives by making us happier and healthier individuals.

Oftentimes, we fall victim to the notion that "the grass is always greener" for everyone else, and fail to realize how great our lives already are! Nobody's life is perfect, and taking the time to reflect on our lives and express gratitude for the people we know, the circumstances we are in, the things we have, and the feats we have accomplished can improve our psychological, emotional, and physical well-beings.

While we might not get to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast every day, there's no reason why we can't take the time to acknowledge the many things in our lives for which we are grateful. Giving thanks shouldn't be a habit you toss away with Turkey Day leftovers. Make it a point to appreciate everything you have, no matter how small, and you'll be amazed by how much better your life can become!

Why Gratitude is Important

Studies have shown that students tend to have higher GPAs, more friends, fewer health complaints, and a greater sense of satisfaction with life when they acknowledge aspects of their lives that they are thankful for. People who feel more grateful also tend to feel more energized, optimistic, and happier! When we focus on the positive instead of the negative, we change our whole perspective on life, which affects everything from how we handle stress to how our bodies heal, fight infection, and metabolize energy.

Instead of counting sheep, try counting your blessings to help you sleep better at night. Students in a research study who took the time to acknowledge and write down things that they are appreciate of fifteen minutes before bedtime were less prone to worrying and succumbing to anxious thoughts, and were able to fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer.

Being more grateful can also lead to improved health overall by giving you a positive outlook on life, thereby lowering stress levels and quelling sad and anxious thoughts that worsen, or can even cause, a plethora of troublesome health conditions.

How to Be More Grateful

Write It Down.

Keeping a journal detailing the many positive things about your day can help you achieve an attitude of gratitude. A beautiful sunset, a smile from a stranger, nice weather, a good meal, laughter - there are countless little things to be grateful for in every day. Our lives are worthwhile not for their great and momentous occasions, but due to the thousands of little things that bring us joy.

Practice Good Penmanship.

Keep a stash of thank-you notes on hand - you never know when you may need them! While it is common courtesy to make an effort to thank anyone that helps you in some way, a hand written note trumps an email any day. Taking that extra time to write and send out a note to a professor, employer, or friend shows that you really care and genuinely appreciate the help you've received.

Sideline Social Media.

Social media sites are notoriously known for engendering envy. People generally edit their profiles to paint a very one-sided picture of their lives, and people are always smiling in their photos, so it's easy to assume that others "have it all together" or that their lives are so much better than your own. Social media is supposed to be fun, but oftentimes it just makes people feel bad about their own lives.

Take a break from the online world to appreciate the life you have in front of you. Be thankful for your own life without comparing it to the way others' lives seem, and put down your phone or computer - Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can wait. If you spend too much time updating your profiles to let the world know about your experiences, you take away from those experience themselves and fail to appreciate life for what it is. Embrace the beauty in life's spontaneity and live in the moment.

Thank a Loved One.

Send out a "Thinking of You" card, or better yet, call up a friend or family member for no reason other than to say how much they mean to you and how thankful you are that he or she is a part of your life. A phone call out of the blue is such a wonderful, unexpected surprise that will make anyone's day - and making someone else's day should make yours!

Look on the Bright Side.

Positive outcomes can come from negative situations, so just because something didn't turn out as planned, it doesn't mean that there's nothing to appreciate. And, if nothing else, any situation can be thought of as a learning experience. So maybe staying up until 3AM having a Netflix marathon caused you to oversleep, miss your exam, get sick, and ruin your plans for the weekend, but at least you can say you learned how not to spend your weeknights. Appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow from your mistakes.

Thoughts?

Now that I've explained why it's important to be thankful, I would like to take this time to thank all of you amazing readers for your support and wonderful feedback on my articles. What are you thankful for? Tell me in a comment below!