Do you need to express more gratitude in your life? You might, if only for your own well-being.
First, what exactly is gratitude? The word comes from the Latin word, “gratis,” which means “pleasing” or “thankful.” The practice of gratitude is when we recognize the good stuff in our lives, even (maybe especially) when there seems to be a lot of difficult, sad, or mundane aspects of our lives, too.
Evidence shows that practicing gratitude positively affects your health and well-being. Feeling thankful can help ward off or improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. It can also help with sleep, immunity, and your mood. And, unsurprisingly, it’s strongly associated with more happiness in general.
“If there was a pill that could do this, we'd all be taking it,” Matthew Schumann, a psychologist at Mayo Clinic, wrote for Mayo Clinic’s Speaking of Health blog.
Gratitude doesn’t always come easily, though. Evolution favored animals who stayed alert for danger, not those who kicked back to count their blessings.
“Our brains are designed to problem-solve rather than appreciate,” Schumann explained. “And we often must override this design to reap the benefits of gratitude.”
How to practice gratitude
Need some help overriding your brain and focusing on the good? Shifting from a negative perspective to a more positive one can sometimes take time, but there are certain exercises that can help. Below is a list of things you can do to start making gratitude a habit every day.
Keep a gratitude journal
This excellent self-therapy technique is a popular option for people beginning their gratitude journey. Jotting down three to five things for which you are grateful every day is a useful way to reflect and shift your entire perspective and well-being in a positive way.
Consciously think of three things you’re grateful for
If you don’t want to journal, at least make some space for grateful thoughts. Do it every day. Morning is usually best, since it helps set the tone for the rest of your day.
Express gratitude for someone
Calling loved ones or pulling them aside just to tell them that you appreciate them not only will make them feel good, but it’ll leave you with warm feelings, too. Make the gesture a regular habit.
A meditation practice has been shown to improve many aspects of your health, and that includes helping to give you a more hopeful outlook. There are many different types of meditation, and lots of websites and apps, like the Calm app, that can help you wade through your options. Find a method that appeals to you and start small — just a minute or two a day. Over time, even those incremental bits of meditation can have a big effect on your outlook and health.
Be mindful of your words
Do you easily veer into gossip territory? Can you be negative or judgy about others? Being mindful of the words you speak, and trying to curb your negative output, will bring more positivity to your thoughts and perspective.
Say “thank you.”
It seems like an easy one, something you learn as a kid, but don’t forget to say thank you to the cashier at the grocery store, the person holding the door for you, and the many other people who help you in small but meaningful ways in your day.
Surround yourself with gratitude cues
Sometimes a little reminder does a lot of good. Decorating your home, car, and office with photos of people, pets, or places that make you feel thankful will leave you with a warm feeling. Oh, and don’t forget to show gratitude for yourself regularly, too! That might mean appreciating all the things your body is capable of doing or patting yourself on the back for making that doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off.
Stop and smell the roses
Pausing to enjoy the beauty around you, whether it’s a literal rose, a beautiful painting, or a child’s smile, can instantly lift your mood. It will also encourage you to be more present.
While doing any of these habits once in a while will offer some temporary positive results, like an improved mood or slower heartbeat, doing these exercises consistently and regularly will shift your entire way of being, and have a positive impact on nearly every aspect of your life. Give some of them a try, and see the changes that reveal themselves in you.
Thank YOU for reading!
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