“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”
When we set goals to improve our health, gain more energy, and/or lose weight, those goals often have to do with nutrition and exercise. And while these two aspects of living a healthy life are VERY important, what if I told you that appreciation and being thankful could increase your health and enhance your well being?
Too often we focus on the negative in our lives. We find ourselves blaming and/or playing the victim role. This doesn’t serve us and can stick us into a negative, depressed like mindset.
Can you imagine what would change for us if we automatically focused on the positive in each situation?
How Practicing Gratitude Improves Our Health
Those who regularly practice gratitude report: sleeping better, having a stronger immune system, feeling more alive, and better resilience as it relates to stress. But the benefits of practicing gratitude can be endless. Psychology Today reported that individuals that wrote down what they are grateful for before bed, fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer.
A study done by, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, showed that those individuals who practiced weekly gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives.
During the study, one group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had upset them. While a third group wrote about events that had affected them but there was not an emphasis on being positive or negative.
The first group who wrote about what they were grateful for also exercised more and had fewer visits to the doctor than those whose focused on daily irritations.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Gratitude is the forgotten factor in happiness research.
- Report higher levels of positive emotions
- Have greater life satisfaction
- Experience greater vitality
- Are more optimistic
- Are healthier
- Build strong relationships
- Handle adversity better
- Experience lower levels of depression and stress
People who have a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathetic and to take the perspective of others. They are also rated as more generous and more helpful.
Grateful individuals place less importance on material goods, are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated and are less envious of others.
Exercise Your Gratitude Muscle
In a sense, gratitude is like a muscle and requires regular exercise to stay fit and functional. When writing in a gratitude journal, aim to find new things to be grateful for each day. Instead of constantly writing down that you are grateful for your family, look for more specific moments to be grateful for.
For example, “Today I am grateful that my husband made dinner so I could relax and take a hot bath.” Gratitude journaling is so effective because over time it changes our perception of situations and what we focus on. Make it a point to notice new things each day to be grateful for.
Below are several different ways to practice gratitude:
- Write a thank you note
- Thank someone mentally
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Count your blessings
Anytime we set out to form a new habit, there are always going to be obstacles to face. You will quickly negate any benefits of practicing gratitude or journaling the things you are grateful for if you are beating yourself up about not being consistent with it.
As with any change, set yourself up for success. If you know that writing in a gratitude journal before bed isn’t realistic for whatever reason, pick a different time of day.
Or you may use a different form of expressing gratitude such as a Gratitude Jar. A gratitude jar is a jar that you place a small piece of paper with moments of gratitude written on them. You can review them weekly, monthly, or once a year.
As we move into a season about thankfulness, I encourage you to start, continue, or resume a regular practice of expressing gratitude. Observe and notice the improvements in your mood, health, well being, and overall happiness.
In Health & Happiness,