As we look around at the current state of affairs, it’s easy to get discouraged.
There’s a war raging in Ukraine, a COVID-19 virus that continues to spread, inflation is rampant, and many financial analysts predict a recession within the next couple of years.1 And although no one can say for sure where markets are headed, the general mood in the U.S. seems to be pessimistic, with many buckling down for tough times ahead.
But what happens if we take a step back and view the bigger picture?
In a recent article titled “Take a Step Back and Count Your Blessings,” author Joachim Klement argues that we may have it better than we realize.2 Joachim is an investment strategist based in London, and in his article, he shares the following charts.
Recessions, wars, disasters, and epidemics in the United States, 1871 to 2021.
As you can see, comparing the last four decades to the past, recessions and bank failures have become much rarer, and modern medicine has all but eliminated epidemics. On the other hand, wars have been frequent, but the author notes that this chart includes all wars globally, not just those with U.S. involvement. And thankfully, there hasn’t been a war in Western Europe or North America in the last 70 years.
Recessions used to occur every 3 to 5 years, but now they occur every ten years or so. In addition, extreme poverty is declining, and the United Nations aims to have no more than 3% of the world’s population living in extreme poverty by 2030, down from 36% in 1990.3
If we step back, we can see blessings all around us.
“So sit back and count your blessings of living in a world where modern medicine has made epidemics incredibly rare and increased the life expectancy of all of us substantially. A world where global trade and globalization have lifted more people out of extreme poverty than any invention or policy has ever done in the history of mankind. A world where central banks have become so good at managing the economy that recessions are essentially a once-in-a-decade event.”
In the grand scheme, things are going pretty well.
By counting our blessings, we practice gratitude, which can have a powerful effect on our lives.
Here Are 3 Powerful Benefits of Gratitude
1. It Makes You Happier
The link between gratitude and happiness is well documented in positive psychology.
According to Harvard Health, “Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. (It) helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”4
During difficult times, it can be easy to fall into a slump. Pessimism and fear create feelings of uncertainty, ultimately leading us to anger, frustration, or sadness. However, by pausing to count our blessings and practicing tiny acts of gratitude, we can improve our happiness, pulling us out of a slump.
2. It Improves Your Physical Health
Not only does gratitude improve your mental health, but it can also improve your physical health.
A 2013 study published in Personality and Individual Differences determined a strong link between physical health and gratitude. The study found that grateful people reported: “Feeling healthier and had fewer aches and pains than others.”5
Another study from the American Psychological Association in 2015 found that patients with gratitude journals showed an improved heart rate variability — a measure that indicates a reduced cardiac risk.6
3. It Helps You Cope With Challenging Circumstances
Lastly, gratitude can serve as a coping technique, helping you overcome difficult circumstances and build resilience.
Taking time to practice gratitude, count your blessings, and reflect on your life helps put things in perspective. And sometimes, that perspective is all we need to enable us to overcome difficulties and trials.
Research from Berkeley suggests that “Grateful people are more skillful at coping with stress and regulating their emotions.”7In addition, they found that being grateful helps people to see the world through a more positive lens, leading them to overcome and navigate challenges in their lives more easily.
Essentially, it helps us view the glass as half full rather than half empty.
But ultimately, the goal isn’t to pretend these times are easy or that everything is going smoothly. There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty going around right now, especially with the stock market and the U.S. economy. But, it is to say that one of the best ways to navigate these fears and uncertainties is to practice gratitude — to count our many blessings.
If we can do that, we’ll be better equipped to deal with unfortunate circumstances while becoming happier and healthier in the process.
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