With the Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner, a lot of us are thinking about the ways we are thankful. From our health and families to new opportunities and recovery, we can all find something to be thankful for. With that, we’d like to talk about gratitude and how this action can help bring a sense of fulfillment and happiness. Although, like feeling thankful, gratitude takes it up to the next level. When we are thankful, we are expressing a feeling or emotion. With gratitude, we express appreciation for what we already have right now in our lives. This can be tangible items, such as a running car that gets us from Point A to Point B or intangible, like appreciating a supportive friend or the goodness each day can bring.
Gratefulness grows with time and is a practice you can incorporate into your daily life. And research shows how this practice can bring health benefits this season and all year round. Gratitude in practice is shown to bring numerous positive mental and physical health benefits. Here, we’ll discuss the ways gratitude can help improve your health and well-being and ways you can incorporate this practice into your life.
Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
You’ve likely heard the word gratitude thrown around a lot. It’s an important practice for everyone… not just those in recovery. Science research backs this up and shows a growing body of measurable benefits everyone can enjoy, including more feelings of happiness, optimism, and positive mindset. Over time, the practice of gratitude creates a positive shift in thinking, and can help people see the good things, even when things aren’t going as planned or how they want. The following are some benefits people experience when adding the practice of gratitude into their life.
According to recent research, people who practice gratitude show fewer health complaints. From less headaches and sleep issues to fewer runny noses and digestive problems, grateful people experience lesser health problems.
Gratitude can take you outside of your mind and see the bigger picture. Because gratitude keeps us present and reminds us to focus on not only challenges but the good things we already have, we can enhance our inner strength and build resilience to better face stress, disappointments, and obstacles life brings.
Lowered Stress and Anxiety
The practice of gratitude creates physiological changes within the body that can help people relax. A scientist at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center reports an association between gratitude and the parasympathetic nervous system. This “automatic” nervous system takes care of functions while the body is at rest, such as digestion, heart rate, and blood pressure. When in balance, the body can better relax.
People who practice gratitude experience more fulfillment, happiness, and confidence in their abilities. This focus on the positive creates changes in the brain and affects how we view ourselves and the world around us. When the focus is on the negative, more attention is given to weaknesses or other areas that bring dissatisfaction. Practicing gratitude does not remove all negativity, but it can divert attention to more positive and pleasurable aspects of life.
How to Begin the Practice of Gratitude
If new to gratitude practice, you can ease your way in with these tips. And remember, gratitude does not happen overnight, but is a practice that can bring you measurable gains. The following are some ways you can bring the practice of gratitude into your daily life.
- Create a Gratitude Journal. From a spiral notebook to leather-bound journal, keep a journal and make time to write daily.
- Jot down a Gratitude List. Keep it traditional with pen and paper or type a note in your smartphone. Make a list of all the people who gave support, compassion, and love.
- Shower Yourself with Appreciation. We all enjoy a compliment and one way you can help plant seeds for change is showing appreciation for yourself. Start with saying 5 good things about yourself. For instance, let’s say you’ve had a difficult day and practiced new and healthy coping skills. You can give compliments such as, “I am strong, disciplined, loving, forgiving, and kind.”
- Practice Gratitude Meditation. Gratitude mediation can help ground ourselves and help bring our attention to the people, accomplishments, and situations for which we feel grateful for.