Did you make a gratitude list today

Learn to be grateful and go through life calmly

Being grateful is absolutely trendy: #blessed is currently one of the most popular hashtags on social media, used as a sign of gratitude for #family, #friends or just the #food. Everyday gratitude can actually make you happier. And can you learn gratitude? Spoiler: Yes, you can!

It's Monday morning and it's raining cats and dogs. You have to go to the office, but you are actually much too tired and unmotivated. Often, like many others, you wake up in a bad mood, even though basically nothing has happened. Get inside yourself: When was the last time you consciously felt the feeling of gratitude for things in your life? Instead of going to the office in a bad mood, you should look forward to your nice work colleagues or simply be satisfied that you have a job. Because: Being grateful should make you happier, more relaxed and healthier.

Just be happy - everyone wants that. But how can we learn gratitude and be satisfied and balanced with it? What does gratitude actually mean?

What is gratitude

A little exercise to start with: What are three things you are grateful for? Not at all easy, most of us think about these things far too seldom. What exactly does gratitude actually mean?

Those who are grateful are very aware when something gives them a positive feeling: For example, whether the sun is shining, a colleague has done you a favor or someone stranger has given you a smile. Gratitude means to perceive the moment, the circumstances and everything that we encounter as a gift and not as something taken for granted.

Gratitude is closely related to our happiness: Psychology and science agree that our attitude towards happiness is influenced by how many happy moments we experience. What we concentrate on, we experience more intensely. So if you are more grateful and focus on the positive aspects of life, you are automatically happier. Thanksgiving is therefore closely related to mindfulness: Gratitude is a form of mindfulness towards oneself and one's surroundings. Sounds easy in theory - in practice, as is so often the case, we unfortunately put a spanner in the works ourselves.


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Living gratitude: why do we find it so difficult to be grateful in everyday life?

Gratitude has so many positive effects, but we often find it difficult to go through everyday life gratefully. The reason for this is our innate tendency to negativity: It is responsible for the fact that we perceive dangers and deficiencies more strongly than positives. So we are evolutionarily ill-seeing.

This function used to make sense to protect us from danger and to react to the slightest hint of attack. Today, however, we are no longer constantly threatened by our environment and actually no longer need this warning system - unfortunately our brain does not yet know anything about it.

The good:

You can change this perception and realign your thoughts. To do this, however, you have to change your routines and consciously focus on things that are going well - until you do it automatically at some point. To practice this, you can integrate special exercises into everyday life.

Positive Effects of Gratitude: Psychology and science prove it through studies

When it comes to Christmas, we are all particularly grateful and consciously perceive the beautiful things in our lives. After New Year's Eve at the latest, however, we have long since returned to our daily routine and have forgotten how to be thankful without further ado.

Already knew?

Gratitude has effects that can strengthen us not only emotionally but also physically. Research has shown: Grateful people are happier, more optimistic, resilient, and healthier.

What happens in our brain when we are grateful?

When feeling grateful, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released, which is known for the reward effect and counts as a happiness hormone. This has a direct effect on our sleep, our metabolism and our resistance to stress and thus ensures more serenity in life.

Healthier through gratitude?

So research and science say that there is a correlation. Studies have shown that gratitude makes you more resistant to stress, ensures more calm, protects against depression or anxiety disorders and helps with sleep disorders.


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A 2003 study by psychologist Robert Emmons from California divided 192 subjects into three groups. One of them kept a diary for ten weeks in which they noted what they are grateful for. The second group noted things that went badly and a third group reflected neutrally. The group that had focused on positive thoughts for the day felt more vital at the end of the test period and felt more zest for life than the other two groups. They also had less abdominal pain, headaches and muscle tension. They also slept better and were more athletic.

Another study from 2015 shows that gratitude can even lower the risk of a heart attack. Psychoneuroimmunologist Paul K. Mills examined 186 men and women who suffered from cardiac insufficiency. The subjects who kept a gratitude diary showed a clear improvement in their physical condition.

And what are the consequences of ingratitude?

Psychology and research have results here too. People who are very committed and have high ideals, but are not recognized for it, i.e. who experience ingratitude, have a higher risk of burnout.

Showing gratitude is just as important as being grateful, at the same time you shouldn't depend on the gratitude of others.

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Think positive at last: exercises for more gratitude in life

Learning to be grateful means being aware of it. That takes time - you can't break into deadlocked routines overnight. You can apply gratitude in any area of ​​life, whether at work, in everyday life or in your free time. Those who are grateful are not only healthier and more stress-resistant, but also exude positivity.

Learn to think positively:

The following exercises should help to form positive thoughts for the day:

1. Keep a gratitude journal

Write down positive events and feelings: list, text or diary, the form does not matter in principle. Write down five things you are grateful for every day. This could possibly be obvious things like “I have a roof over my head”, but also concrete events like “My colleague made me laugh today”.

2. Gratitude meditation for starting the day

Sit in a quiet place and close your eyes. Imagine in your mind's eye a person, a situation or an object for which you are particularly grateful in your life. Focus on all the details. You will see: this is how you start the day with a positive feeling.

3. Thank you list for falling asleep

According to gratitude researchers, it helps to review the day in the evening and create a gratitude list in your mind. Afterwards you feel more relaxed and can fall asleep better, sleep is calmer and more balanced.

4. The letter of gratitude

Hand on heart: When was the last time you told someone how grateful you are for him or her? Write the person a letter or Whatsapp and express your gratitude. Science has found that being loved and loving have equally positive effects on us.


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Do you want to learn gratitude? Then start your self-experiment now and integrate the exercises into your everyday life. There are also digital helpers who can support you: Psychologists from the Leuphana University of Lüneburg have developed online training and a mobile phone app that help you perceive positive things.

Or you can test an app, for example "Reflectly". It reminds you not to forget the gratitude and reflect on positive things of the day.

App: Reflectly

Your personal diary to reduce stress and gain a positive attitude.

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Natalie Decker

Natalie has been an editor for 15 years. In addition to lifestyle topics such as cooking and traveling, her focus is on medicine and health. Among other things, she writes for the online portalheil-vital.de and the Ratgeber-Verlag Graefe und Unzer.

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