For those who think that gratitude practice is a sign of weakness and lack of motivation, I am here to offer evidence to the contrary. A gratitude practice can strengthen our motivation and improve our connection with others, helping us achieve a healthier, happier and more successful life. Stick with me, I will show you.
Photo by Will B.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more… Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
This past weekend someone told me that, in their perspective, gratitude is a sign of weakness and lack of motivation. It truly is the opposite! So I would like to debunk those myths, my style: with some science to back me up.
By now, you already know how invested I am in spreading the knowledge that a gratitude practice not only brings more positivity into our lives (I can always use more positivity, thank you!) but it also makes us healthier, happier and more successful as well. And science proves it!
Gratitude offers emotional, psychological, physical and social benefits: stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, more feelings of joy, and a greater sense of social connection. Gratitude also helps us see the bigger picture, feel less overwhelmed when facing adversities and become better at problem-solving.
WHAT GRATITUDE IS NOT
That been said, gratitude is NOT complacency to the status quo, meaning that you are ok with how things are and have no motivation to change things. It’s quite the opposite, as studies have shown, gratitude “drives a sense of purpose and a desire to do more”.
A gratitude practice actually leads us to reach our goals and to want to keep moving towards reaching more goals. That’s because, with practice, our brain is primed to look for the positives first. The more positives we find, the happier we become (hello, dopamine!) and the more positives we will look for and find. This loop makes us feel more energetic, alive, awake, alert and happier. It also motivates us to share, give and do more for others as well, increasing our connection, because happy people like to be connected.
Gratitude is also NOT naive positive thinking, meaning, just thinking nice thoughts, ignoring our pain and suffering while pushing through it. Research shows that when we are grateful, we are not necessarily devoid of negative feelings. Those strong negative feelings are still there, only gratitude helps increase our positive feelings helping us understand and deal with the negative feelings and happenings in our lives better and more successful. With a positive attitude, we have a clearer mind and become better problem-solvers.
As you can see we are not lazy or weak nor do we ignore our problems by being grateful. It’s the opposite. The skills we develop with a gratitude practice actually helps us deal with our emotions and hard times better than without those skills.
You can read more about the benefits of gratitude here. How to create a culture of gratitude at work here. Case studies of some of my clients after a year of gratitude practice. And even, how to continue practicing even when you don’t feel like it.
The truth is, gratitude is really good for us and we should practice it daily. The earlier we start, the better we become at it and more impactful the results are too. After decades dedicated to the study of gratitude in adults, studies now show how a gratitude practice is impacting children:
- this study in motivation and emotions shows that kids who are more grateful than their peers at age 10 are, by age 14, performing more pro-social activities, feel greater social integration, and are more motivated to use their strengths to help others and feel connected;
- William Damon, in his book The Path to Purpose, shows that kids who practice gratitude find their purpose and thrive in life as they are more engaged in activities they love and develop a clear sense of what they want to do with their lives as they grow older;
- a study by the greater good found that teens who had high levels of gratitude when entering high school had less negative emotions and depression and more positive emotions, life satisfaction, and happiness four years later when they were finishing high school;
- this study found that middle school students who wrote 5 things they were grateful for every day for 2 weeks fell more optimistic, more connected to others, more satisfied with their school life and had fewer physical complaints and negative emotions.
Gratitude isn’t just a warm, fuzzy feeling. It is, in fact, a complex mental process that helps us engage and navigate through life with more efficiency and joy. You don’t have to be religious to practice gratitude. You can be going through hard times and still be able to practice gratitude. Gratitude is a virtue and a habit, that can be cultivated and shall be maintained through life. And the earlier we start, the more benefits we will reap.