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Why Grateful People Live Longer And Lead A Happier Life

Why Grateful People Live Longer And Lead A Happier Life

Thank You! Thank You and Thank You!! We say it on a daily basis almost out of courtesy at times or to display our good mannerisms and at times when we truly feel thankful. A bigger version of this is played out on “Giving Thanks Day,” aka Thanksgiving, where we express how thankful we are for our family and other blessings in our life. When we are truly thankful and we feel it deep inside us, we are grateful. Grateful for our friends, family, our material goods, our health, and various other blessings in our lives. Feeling grateful forces our minds to adopt an abundance mindset as opposed to a scarcity based one, where you feel you are lacking something. An abundant mindset is key to our growth and well-being. Stephen Covey in his famous book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective people clearly explains the differences between a scarcity mindset and an abundant mindset. “It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody,” he said.

Gratitude has produced such miraculous results for people that scientists have been seriously studying the practice of gratefulness and its effect on physical and psychosocial benefits. Heartfelt gratitude not only makes us feel happy, but a host of other benefits. Let’s start with the obvious one.

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When you are grateful,

You’ll Feel Happy:

One study conducted by Robert Emmons at the University of Berkeley, California, divided participants into 3 groups and asked them to maintain a journal for 10 weeks. One group was asked to write a list of 10 things they were grateful for the past week. The second group was asked to list 10 minor annoyances in the past week and the third group was asked to write about 10 things that impacted their lives in the past week, with no further direction. At the end of 10 weeks, the first group folks were reported feeling 25% more happier than the other groups. Robert Emmons has written multiple books on happiness and gratitude. You can check them out here. Emmons book, ‘Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier ” is a must read! Sonya Lyobomirsky, professor in the Department of Psychology and University of California and author of “The How of Happiness’, describes gratitude as the meta strategy to achieve happiness. “Gratitude is many things to many people,” she says. “It is wonder; it is appreciation; it is looking on the bright side of a setback; it is fathoming abundance; it is thanking someone in your life; it is thanking God; it is ‘counting blessings.’ It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is coping; it is present-oriented.”

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Your Physical Vitality Improves:

Surprisingly or not so surprisingly, gratitude improves our physical health. How, you ask? Firstly, gratitude helps lower our stress levels. Its no secret that stress has been proven to be a major cause of heart attacks and other chronic conditions. Gratitude leads to a positive outlook and spurs an optimistic approach to life. Optimism in turn has been linked to increased immunity boosting cells. “Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations,” Emmons told WebMD. A study conducted by California based Paul Mills, professor of family medicine at University of California, shows us that a “grateful heart is indeed a healthy heart”.

Your Personal Relationships Get Stronger:

Gratitude helps brings partners closer together. This appreciation is not only what a partner does for you in a relationship but also appreciating the partner for who he/she is. This fosters a sense of commitment towards each other and towards growing the relationship. Individuals are more thoughtful in their words and actions toward their partners thereby helping the intimacy grow. Feeling appreciated and valued by one’s partner makes a world of difference to the relationship and helps it get stronger. A study conducted by Allen Barton of the University of Georgia affirms this. “We found that feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last,” said study co-author Ted Futris.

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You’ll Be More Resilient:

Noticing and appreciating our blessings  regularly attunes us to notice the good in everything and everyone. This constant attention to seeing the good in every situation helps us bounce back stronger and quicker. Barbara Fredickson, author of Positivity and Love 2.0 attributes gratitude to be a key factor in building resilience. According to Fredrickson, “When adversity strikes, gratitude for the things that are going right in your life helps put tragedy in perspective”. Another tactic that she recommends is ‘un-adapting’. This involves consciously drawing attention to the things we take for granted in our lives, like a roof over our heads, a steady career, food and other things. Again, this cultivates that abundance mindset leading to stronger abilities to bounce back in adverse situations.

You’ll Sleep Better:

Count your blessings to sleep better! Gratitude promotes a feeling of trust and “all is well in my world”. This in turn helps you sleep better by reducing your stress and worry about day-to-day things. A study conducted measured the quality of quantity of sleep in its participants as a result of expressing gratitude. The study confirms the positive effect of gratitude on sleep. People slept longer, woke up less and felt more refreshed when partaking in a gratitude practice.

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Your Life Satisfaction Score Goes Up:

Studies conducted and summarized in the paper show a definitive uptick with one’s life satisfaction. Positive thoughts leading to thoughtful positive actions, increased physical vitality, stronger relationships, optimistic thoughts,  all together cause an overall increase in one’s sense of well-being.

Emmons rightfully said ” Don’t leave thanks at the thanksgiving table”. Gratitude is a muscle in us that needs to be built consciously. Maintain a gratitude practice that works for you and your schedule and stick to it daily. It does not have to be anything fancy. It can range from meditating 5 mins a day, to being mindful, keeping a gratitude journal, a gratitude jar, writing someone a thank you note, calling up someone and thanking them for who they are, reflecting on the things that we take for granted that are truly a blessing are some ways to incorporate gratitude in your daily life. There’s much to be said about the Power of Gratitude. So let’s say it, breathe it, live it and reap its benefits!

Featured photo credit: Depositphotos/Petarpaunchev via depositphotos.com

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Last Updated on October 14, 2020

Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

Today didn’t turn out as you planned, but it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It simply means that you’re human, and you’re not bad just because you had a bad day.

“Not everyday is a good day but there is something good in every day.” -Alice Morse Earle

It’s not the end of the world when you find yourself thinking “I had a bad day,” but it can feel like it. You may have had plans that fell apart, experiences that set you back, and interactions that only did harm.

You may have started the day thinking you could take on it all, only to find you could hardly get out of bed. When you have a bad day, you can forget to look at the good.

Sometimes, self-care helps us to remember why we are worth it. It helps us to recharge and reset our mindset. It helps us to know that there are still options and that the day isn’t over yet.

Love yourself today, no matter how hard it’s been. That’s the way to find yourself amidst the hardships you have. That’s how you center yourself and regain focus and live a more meaningful life. Give yourself some credit and compassion.

Here are 7 ways to rebound from a bad day using self-compassion as a tool. If you had a bad day, these are for you!

1. Make a Gratitude List

In a study on gratitude, psychologists Dr. Robert A Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough conducted an experiment where one group of people wrote out gratitude lists for ten weeks while another group wrote about irritations. The study found that the group that wrote about gratitude reported more optimistic mindsets in their lives[1].

Overall, having a gratitude list improved well-being and made one truly grateful by counting the blessings in their lives.

Write a list of what you are grateful for if you had a bad day. Make it as long as you like, but also remember to note why you’re grateful for each thing you write.

What has given you the most joy? What has set you up for better days? Keep a tally of triumphs in mind, especially when you do have the bad days.

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The day doesn’t define you, and you still have things of value that surround you. These could be material things, spiritual connections and experiences, relationships, basic needs, emotional and mental well-being, physical health, progress towards hopes and dreams, or simply being alive.

Here are some other simple ways to practice gratitude.

2. Write in a Journal

Journaling affects your overall mental health, which also affects physical health and aids in the management of stress, depression, anxiety, and more[2].

All you need is a pen and paper, or you could do an online, password-protected journal such as Penzu. The key is to get started and not pressure yourself on how polished or perfect it is. You don’t need to have prior experience to start journal writing. Just start.

Write out everything that is bothering you for 15 minutes. This helps with rumination, processing problems, and can even aid with brainstorming solutions.

However you approach it, you can find patterns of thinking that no longer serve you and start to transform your overall mental state. This will impact all areas of your life and is a great coping skill.

3. Meditate

Meditation can help you overcome negative thought patterns, worrying about the future, dwelling on the past, or struggling to overcome a bad day[3]. It shifts your mentality and helps you focus on the present or any one thing you truly want to focus on.

Here is an example of a meditation you can do:

Get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Rest your body, release tension, and unclench your jaw. Tighten and release each muscle group in a body scan for progressive muscle relaxation.

Focus on your breath, taking a few deep breaths. Let your belly expand when you breathe in for diaphragmatic breathing. Empty yourself completely of air, then return to normal breathing.

Next, focus on the idea of self-love and let it erase negative thoughts. Think about the ways you’ve been judging yourself, with the narratives coming up that your mind may create.

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Give yourself unconditional love and release judgment. Take your time meditating on this because you matter. This is particularly important if you had a bad day.

Check out this article for more on how to get started with a meditation practice.

4. Do Child’s Pose

Yoga Outlet says:

“Child’s Pose is a simple way to calm your mind, slow your breath, and restore a feeling of peace and safety. Practicing the pose before bedtime can help to release the worries of the day. Practicing in the morning can you help transition from sleeping to waking.”[4]

When you do Child’s Pose, it can be between difficult positions in yoga, or it can be anytime you feel you need a rest. It helps you recover from difficulties and relax the mind.

It also has the physical health benefits of elongating your back, opening your hips, and helping with digestion[5].

To do Child’s Pose, rest your buttocks back on your feet, knees on the floor. Elongate your body over your knees with both arms extended or tucked back, with head and neck resting on the floor[6].

Had a bad day? Try Child's Pose.

     

    Do this pose as a gift to yourself. You are allowing yourself to heal, rest, get time for yourself, recover, and recharge. When you’ve had a bad day, it’s there waiting for you.

    5. Try Positive Self-Talk

    Engage in positive self-talk. This is essentially choosing your thoughts.

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    When you have a negative thought, such as “I can’t do this,” replace it consciously with the thought “I can do this.” Give yourself positive affirmations to help with this.

    Negative self-talk fits into four general categories: personalizing or blaming yourself, magnifying or only focusing on the negative, catastrophizing or expecting the worst to happen, and polarizing or only seeing back and white[7].

    When you stop blaming yourself for everything and start focusing on the positive, expecting things to work out, and seeing the areas of grey in life, you reverse these negative mindsets and engage in positive self-talk.

    When you speak words of kindness to yourself, your brain responds with a more positive attitude. That attitude will affect everything you do. It’s how you take care of yourself if you had a bad day.

    Check in with yourself to know when you are having negative self-talk. Are you seeing patterns? When did they start to become a problem? Are you able to turn these thoughts around?

    6. Use Coping Skills and Take a Break

    Use your coping skills. This means not letting your thoughts take control of yourself.

    You can distract yourself and escape a bit. Do things you love. You can exercise, listen to music, dance, volunteer or help someone, be in nature, or read a book.

    It isn’t about repression. It’s about redirection. You can’t stay in thoughts that are no longer working for you.

    Sometimes, it’s okay to get out of your own way. Give yourself a break from the things going on in your head. You can always come back to a problem later. This may even help you figure out the best course of action as sometimes stepping away is the only way to see the solution.

    If you had a bad day, you may not feel like addressing what went wrong. You may need a break, so take one.

    7. If a Bad Day Turns Into Bad Days

    “I believe depression is legitimate. But I also believe that if you don’t exercise, eat nutritious food, get sunlight, get enough sleep, consume positive material, surround yourself with support, then you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance.” –Jim Carrey

    If you’ve been feeling out of control, depressed, or unstable for more than a few weeks, it’s time to call a mental health professional. This is not because you have failed in any way. It’s because you are human, and you simply need help.

    You may not be able to quickly rebound from a bad day, and that’s fine. Feel what you feel, but don’t let it consume you.

    When you talk to a professional, share the techniques that you have already tried here and whether they were helpful. They may tell you additional ideas or gain insights from your struggles of not being able to rebound from a series of bad days.

    If you’re having more than just a bad day, they will want to know. If you don’t have the answers, that’s okay, too. You just need to try these tools and figure out how you’re feeling. That’s all that’s required of you.

    Keep taking care of yourself. Any progress is progress, no matter how small. Give yourself a chance to get better by reaching out.

    Final Thoughts

    If you had a bad day, don’t let it stop you.

    Know this: It’s okay not to be okay. You have a right to feel what you feel. But there is something you can do about it.

    You can invest in yourself via self-care.

    You are not alone in this. Everyone has bad days from time to time. You just need to know that you are the positive things you tell yourself.

    More Things You Can Do If You Had a Bad Day

    Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

    Reference

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