Cultivating Gratitude and Why It's So Important
We’re handed qualities in life at a young age that can empower us to be the best we can be. Saying please and thank you is instilled in the majority of our minds from the moment we learn how to talk. We’re not aware then that the nudging to use our manners is starting a practice of gratitude.
Gratitude is the affirmation of goodness. It is taking the time to recognize and acknowledge the good things in life. A thank you, I am grateful for you, or a silent gesture like placing your hand over your heart is a simple way to express gratitude. The practice not only shapes you into being a pleasant human to be around, it also benefits your mental health, physical health, relationships, and your general well-being.
Practising gratitude improves both physical and mental health by releasing emotions, enhancing dopamine and serotonin production, and regulating stress hormones. The limbic system—composed of the thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, and cingulate gyrus (it’s a mouthful, I know)—is the part of the brain that handles your emotional experiences. Both the hippocampus and the amygdala regulate emotions, memory, and bodily functions. These sites in your brain are activated with expressed feelings of gratitude. Feeling grateful releases the ‘good’ hormones throughout your body, which not only helps you feel great but also boosts your immune system.
Practising gratitude alters the way we see the world, others, and how we view ourselves. Speaking authentic words of gratitude sends a boost of self-esteem and confidence to the one receiving the words and to the person saying them. Gratitude inspires humility and empathy; it brings out a calm response when tensions are high and can swing a sour mood into a lighter disposition. It’s a great response to comparison. When we hold ourselves in a state of gratitude, we can exercise self-kindness. Gratitude is in alignment with contentment. The more you express how much you have to be grateful for, the more content you’ll feel with your life.
However, practising gratitude isn’t about pretending everything is okay when it isn’t. There is such a thing as toxic positivity. Life is hard. Reality is painful. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to not be okay. You’re allowed to feel whatever you are feeling in the moment, and then summon gratitude when you’re ready to shake it off.
Cultivating gratitude in your life can look like:
- Sending a text to a friend and telling them about how much you appreciate them.
- Taking the time to journal what you’re grateful for.
- Taking moments to be still and be present.
- Finding one thing that you’re thankful for from your past, from the present, and for your future.
- Take a look back at how much you’ve grown in a year. Keep in mind that small growth is still growth.
We are grateful for you. Thank you for your support, for being here, for engaging with us on social media, for choosing Franc, and for sending us your feedback. We couldn’t be here without you and we’re so grateful that you’ve chosen to be here with us on this journey. Thank you.
Jade is a freelance writer and copy editor, living in a sleepy town in Northern Ontario. She loves growing plants, playing with dirt, and staying cozy.