We’re wired to focus on the negative or what is missing in our lives. By intentionally focusing daily on what is good and right in our lives, our habit of negativity weakens, and appreciation strengthens. If we can make gratitude a habit, it becomes a default setting. When life unravels, our grateful attitude can help us pull through. But it doesn’t just happen, it comes with practice. We need to consciously apply and repeat, deliberately and daily. As our practice grows, our level of contentment rises.
Benefits of practicing gratitude
Although there are still many unknowns about the impact of gratitude on health, there is agreement that it makes you feel good! Overall, practicing gratitude creates positive emotions which can reduce stress and improve wellbeing and life satisfaction. Other benefits may include:
- Feeling valued which increases our self-esteem
- Minimizing negative thoughts and feelings
- Preventing worry and frustration
- Feeling inspired which improves motivation
- Being hopeful for future
- Building stronger relationships
- Coping better with stress
- Being more alert, enthusiastic and productive
- Experiencing higher levels of love, happiness and optimism
- Having stronger immunity, lower blood pressure, and better quality and duration of sleep
Simple exercises can be used every day to practice gratitude
- Gratitude countdown– Take turns with a friend, spouse or child to count down from 10, listing 10 things you are grateful for. Be specific. For example, rather than saying “I’m grateful for my dog”, say “I’m grateful for my dog snuggling up to me tonight and making me feel loved.” This will help evoke an authentic feeling of gratitude. You can also do this solo.
- Gratitude journaling– Each day, write down 10 items you’re grateful for, including bigger things that are easier to notice and the day to day things that we tend to overlook. Putting pen to paper helps to organize thoughts and deepen their impact. Do this exercise at the same time everyday to establish habit. Don’t worry about grammar or writing a well written sentence. The idea is to let writing flow naturally without too much thought to channel gratefulness from heart to pen to page.
- Gratitude reminder– This is a simple cue to remind you to tap into gratitude during the day. It could be an audio (a squeaky door, an alarm) or visual (a bracelet, a pet) reminder to practice gratitude. When you hear or see that cue/reminder, pause, take a deep breath, and find gratitude in that moment.
- Harvard Medical School – Giving thanks can make you happier
- Greater Good Magazine – Is gratitude good for your health?
- Mayo Clinic – To improve your health, practice gratitude
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