Over the last couple of years, I’ve been riding an e-bike to work as often as I can. There are a few reasons why I do this including that it’s better for the environment, I get some exercise, and it’s more enjoyable than driving through peak hour traffic. Another unexpected benefit that I’ve noticed is becoming more connected to the communities and physical environments that I’m passing through. I’m aware of the gratitude that I feel for the fish, the waterbirds, and the dolphins that I notice as I ride alongside the Derbarl Yerrigan river. The commute has become part of living a meaningful life where I’m connecting to the changing seasons and rhythms of the river.
Gratitude is an emotion that involves expressing appreciation for the positive things in life. It is often associated with feelings of thankfulness, contentment, and happiness. Research has shown that gratitude can have a powerful impact on our mental and physical health, relationships, and overall wellbeing.
Brene Brown in her recent book, Atlas of the Heart (1), has the following definition:
Gratitude is an emotion that reflects our deep appreciation for what we value, what brings meaning to our lives, and what makes us feel connected to ourselves and others (p.214)
Understanding the Science
Gratitude is not just a feel-good emotion; it has a scientific basis as well (2). When we experience gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters that are associated with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. These chemicals can help us feel happier, more relaxed, and less stressed. In addition, practicing gratitude can also increase our resilience and help us cope with difficult situations.
Researchers have also found that gratitude can have a positive effect on our relationships (3). When we express gratitude towards others, it can strengthen our connections and build trust. This can lead to more fulfilling relationships and improve our overall social support network. Gratitude can also have a positive impact on our physical health by reducing inflammation, improving sleep quality, and boosting our immune system.
Benefits of Practicing Gratitude Daily
Practicing gratitude daily can have a significant impact on our overall wellbeing. It can help us feel more positive, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve our mental health. Gratitude can also improve our physical health by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as improving our sleep quality. Additionally, cultivating gratitude can improve our relationships by strengthening our connections with others and increasing our empathy and compassion.
Simple Ways to Cultivate Gratitude in Your Life
There are many simple ways to cultivate gratitude in your life. One way is to keep a gratitude journal and write down three things you are thankful for each day (4). This can help you focus on the positive aspects of your life and shift your perspective towards gratitude. But like my example of being grateful of the things I see when I ride to work you don’t have to write it in a journal each day. It may help if this is new to you but see what works for you.
Another way to cultivate gratitude is to express appreciation towards others. You can do this by writing a thank-you note, sending a text message, or simply saying thank you in person. This can make a difference in the workplace as well, where a study showed that staff who felt appreciated and tanked were more engaged in their work (4). Finally, taking time to appreciate nature, practicing mindfulness, and volunteering can also help cultivate gratitude in your life.
In conclusion, gratitude is a powerful emotion that can have a significant impact on your mental and physical health, relationships, and overall wellbeing. By understanding the science behind gratitude, practicing gratitude daily, and cultivating gratitude in our lives, we can experience the many benefits of this powerful emotion. So why not start today and begin to experience the power of gratitude for a more meaningful life?
(1) Brown, B. (2021). Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience (1st ed.). Vermilion. London.
(2) “35 Scientific Benefits of Gratitude: Mental Health Research Findings | Research.Com,” May 6, 2023.
(3) “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain,” greater Good magazine, May 6, 2023.
(4) Giving thanks can make you happier – Harvard Health. (2023).
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