Saying thank you can be an automatic reaction to things… and we say it so often that it can easily lose its meaning. But what if you really started to consider thankfulness and gratitude as a way to affect your mindset and even improve your health? Author, motivational speaker and fitness guru Danette May believes that a grateful attitude and a daily gratitude practice has many health benefits. Here she outlines seven ways gratitude can improve your health and how to practice gratitude every day.
Have you ever wished it could be Thanksgiving 365 days a year? (Or is it just me?!) It’s not necessarily all the delicious turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, it’s the joy of having my whole family gathered around that makes me eagerly anticipate this day every year.
Thanksgiving Day brings me a big boost of joy because I actually stop to give thanks for my many blessings. But we should be thankful and grateful more than just on one day of the year.
Gratitude is a buzzword lately, and there’s a lot being said and written about it. It’s even a trend to keep a gratitude journal, and the topic of gratitude has even made the talk show circuit! So here’s the question: Is this topic silly, or does it have real substance? Are there proven health benefits to being mindfully grateful?
Here’s what we know about the health benefits of gratitude.
People who are grateful have:
- Better physical health
A 2012 study showed that people who are grateful tend to take better care of themselves, and to feel healthier overall. The study also showed that if you have the gratitude thing down, you are likely to exercise more frequently and go to the doctor more regularly.
- Improved mental health
If you’re in touch with the good in your life and you can recognize reasons for gratitude, you’re more likely to have fewer negative feelings. The negative feelings of regret, frustration, envy and resentment are less common in people who spend time acknowledging the good they have in their lives.
- Less anger and more empathy for others
Studies have shown that when people practice mindful gratitude, they are less likely to seek revenge when they feel they have been wronged. This is being mindful helps us see and better understand a situation from another person’s point of view.
- Better sleep
A 2011 study asked people to spend 15 minutes writing in a gratitude journal before going to sleep every night. The results? Those who expressed gratitude before going to bed slept more soundly and longer than those who did not.
- Improved self-esteem
People who take the time to reflect on all that’s good in their world tend to be less resentful. (Seems obvious, right?) Those who are grateful for the good in their own lives are able to be happy for others’ success (and not threatened by it). And, even better, being practicing mindfulness and gratitude even helps us feel better about our own accomplishments.
- Better ability to deal with stress
By being mindful and practicing gratitude, we become stronger and more resilient. This helps us recover more easily from trauma and cope with stress better as well.
- Better relationships, and more of them!
If you are aware and grateful, you’re more likely to express your appreciation to others. This ability to thank others makes it more likely that people will want to be around you too. Who doesn’t want to be friends with someone who brings them up?
SO, Bottom line: The good feeling you have after a Thanksgiving celebration is about more than what you have eaten. It’s about the power of gratitude.
Now that you understand the benefits of gratitude, let’s talk about how to incorporate the practice of gratitude into your daily life and rituals:
How to Practice Gratitude
- Make a commitment to gratitude.
Some days it’s hard to force yourself to sit down and come up with something you’re grateful for. But it’s on these days that we may need a reminder of some things in our life that we can actually be thankful for-even if it’s something really small like a beautiful day or the love we get from our pets! Once you consider the good in your life, you’ll feel better for it.
- Decide what your daily practice of being thankful will look like.
Are you going to write in a journal every day? If so, buy one that makes you happy! Do you want to record your gratitude on your phone or your computer? Do a web search or look for an app that helps you record your gratitude daily. Where you document it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the fact that you’re doing it. And you’ll be more likely to do it if you’ve taken the time to figure out how you will document your gratitude.
- Schedule your gratitude practice for a specific time each day and stick to it.
Just do it! Make a plan to incorporate it into your life, every day. You’ll feel better in the long run.
- Don’t get lazy!
Reflecting on what you’re thankful for is fine, but try to document it! You can consider saying it aloud, but writing it down is even better. This makes it feel more real.
- Reflect on what you’re grateful for.
Once you’ve written something down, look at it! Think about just how much joy it brings you. If there’s a day when you’re not feeling all that upbeat and thankful, reflect on what you documented in earlier journal entries.
- Stick to your scheduled time, but don’t limit your grateful thoughts to that time!
Try to go through your day by allowing yourself to be grateful for small things, and see what rises to the top of your list. Take every opportunity to be grateful for things that come across your path.
- Share your gratitude with others.
Tell other people what you are grateful for and practice active gratitude! Not only is it valuable to document what you’re grateful for, share it with others. You’ll be happier for it.
Expressing gratitude and being thankful are lifelong practices, not just on Thanksgiving. It will take time, but once you’ve made an effort to incorporate a gratitude practice into your life, you will start to notice the benefits in your mental and physical well being.
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