Mindset

Five Reasons to Start a Gratitude Practice

January 30, 2022

This post is dedicated to all my eternally pessimistic homies.

This post is dedicated to all my eternally pessimistic homies. Let me help you push the disappointment out and usher in love with the practice of gratitude. Just trust me on this one, you guys.

RECOVERED PESSIMIST

My name is Maggie, and I’m a recovered pessimist. I was perpetually disappointed in everything and never appreciated anything. I used to live my life by Louis CK’s famous quote on optimism. Have you ever heard it? If not, here you are:

“You have to be stupid. That’s what optimistic means, you know? It means stupid. An optimist is somebody who goes, ‘Hey, maybe something nice will happen.’ Why the f*ck would anything nice happen?”

Pretty funny, right? But do you know what Louis CK’s job is? (Or was. I don’t know if he still gets work. 😬) He’s a comedian. He takes his observations and twists them to make them hilarious. As with all comedians, you shouldn’t take their acts as gospel. I, however, was in a dark place when I heard that bit and latched onto his words tightly.

BREAKTHROUGH

About 8 years ago (lest we forget, I’m super old), I was very worn down from being so negative. Negativity breaks the spirit, you guys. Like for real. Thinking back on it now, I can see I was in a bad way, but at the time I was pretty sure everyone else was just awful.

My breakthrough came when I accepted a position with a company that was very positivity-centered. One of the perks of this job was life coaching sessions with a well-known coach. Well, she wasn’t well-known to me as a pessimist, but she was in her field.

At my first session with her, she told me a secret (not The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, but close!): You can shift your outlook by practicing gratitude.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Way-Back-Maggie did not do gratitude. As in, when someone mentioned the word to me, I cut all ties and never talked to them again. (Haha, not really, but isn’t that visual hilarious? Me running for the hills at the mention of gratitude? If nothing, I amuse myself.) But seriously, when someone mentioned gratitude to me, I really did suspect they were up to something. Maybe Scientology. I’ve seen the documentaries.

When my coach told me about gratitude, though, I was pretty desperate. I had just overcome some health problems, I had a new job which required I go into the office on the weekend, I was traveling for work way more than I liked, and I had a poisonous attitude. Gratitude will help, you say? Sign me up. I’ll take two.

Maggie Isley's pin with Five Reasons for Gratitude

The Why of It All

1. OPTIMISM

I totally gave this away in the intro. I know I did, but you guys! It needs repeating! Yelled from the mountaintops! (Unless you live in Cleveland, Ohio, like me, and have access to exactly zero mountains. In that case, mention it from the slightly elevated area at your local park.) There’s a reason “attitude of gratitude” is a thing people say. Gratitude shifts your outlook, and suddenly everything isn’t terrible.

There’s a scientific reason for this, by the way, but we’ll get into that another time.

2. IMPROVED PHYSICAL WELL-BEING

Studies have shown (real studies, like the 2012 study from the journal Personality and Individual Difference) that people who practice gratitude have fewer aches and pains than their less mindful counterparts. Now, buckle up buttercup – I’ve got a non-scientific theory here!

I’m neither a scientist not doctor, but here’s my thought: Both parties experience similar aches but when asked to recall for a study, people who practice gratitude do not recall the issues as vividly as their non-practicing pals. Mainly because the gratitude group focuses their energy on things they’re thankful for, not things that are a bummer. Your perception becomes your reality.

3. STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS

Saying “thank you” is polite, yes? But as the recipient, it signifies more than just good manners; it means appreciation. Feeling appreciated is one of my favorite feelings. Appreciation connects us as humans, and it can strengthen the bonds in your relationships. No one wants to be friends with an ungrateful ninny.

4. REDUCED MATERIALISM

We’ve all heard the term “retail therapy.” Materialism has links to depression – strong ones. Shopping to reduce stress or fill a void is not only expensive, it’s a placebo. Once the thrill of the experience is over, you’re right back to the same mental state you were in before you went to the mall, only now you have less money because you spent it all on shoes. (Good purchase, by the way, just bad reasoning.)

5. IMPROVED MENTAL RESILIENCE

I’m about to get all scientific on you again, but this is important! This 2006 study from the journal Behavior Research and Therapy found that combat veterans who practiced gratitude had fewer instances of post-traumatic stress disorder and were more resilient than their counterparts. Dude, if it’s good enough for combat veterans (some of the bravest people I can think of!), it’s good enough for me.

ALL ABOARD THE GRATITUDE TRAIN

Listen, it took some convincing for me to start practicing gratitude. It can be overwhelming to implement a new habit, I get it. To help you get started, I made you a fillable weekly gratitude download. Snag it here. Good luck, my friends.

Let me know in the comments below if you’re already practicing. Have you noticed a shift in your outlook? What other benefits have you noticed?

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