The Benefits of Incorporating Gratitude into Your Day
November is the month of Thanksgiving. It is the time of the year when we focus on all the yummy food we are about to eat, family time, and gratitude. But, research shows, that gratitude is something we could benefit from every day—not just during one month of the year. It can have positive effects on our mental and physical health and our relationships.
Do you ever notice how your day can be shaped by one small bad thing happening? A woman once told me how she showed up for her 6 a.m. yoga class and the teacher had overslept and wasn’t there to teach. As the woman headed back to her car, disappointed, another classmate looked at her and said “well I hope this doesn’t shape the weekend.” Why do we so often let one bad thing that happened be our focus? What about all the other good things that happen to us during the day?
That is what the practice of gratitude is all about. It is about shifting our focus from the negative to the positive. There are several benefits to incorporating gratitude into your daily life, here are a few:
1.) Improves Mental Health
Regular gratitude practice can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you are training your brain to think about the good things, instead of the bad, you are less likely to worry about the future and feel negative feelings like regret, envy, sadness, etc.
2.) Boosts the Immune System
When we are less stressed and happier in our lives, our immune system can respond better to threats to the body. Next time you are stressed pay attention to how your body feels, is your heart racing? Do you have a headache? A stomachache? These are all physical symptoms of stress that your body is dealing with, thus lowering your immune response. If you shift your focus from the bad to the good, you can feel calmer, peaceful, and have better overall wellbeing, giving your immune system more power to fight off threats.
3.) Better Relationships
Gratitude practice is not just about noticing the good things in your life, but it is also about noticing the good in others. Saying things like “thank you,” and “I appreciate your time and effort,” show people that you respect them and value their time and energy. Expressing gratitude to others increases relationship satisfaction for both parties, opens the doors for new friendships, and leads to greater happiness.
4.) Increased Optimism
It might seem pretty obvious but if you are noticing more good than bad in your life, then you are naturally becoming more optimistic. Being optimistic can have many benefits including healthy aging, according to a 2019 study. The more optimism you feel about your life and who you are as a person, the better self-esteem and self-confidence you will feel. It all starts with gratitude.
How to Get Started
Now that you have read about the benefits of gratitude you might be interested in learning more about how you can incorporate gratitude practice into your life. There are several ways you can start.
Gratitude journaling can be a helpful tool. Set aside a short time each day to record something you are thankful for, make it part of a routine like brushing your teeth or exercising. You can start a gratitude journal or use the notes app on your phone to record one to three things each day that you are grateful for. They can be anything — big or small. For example, “the sun was out today,” “the dog cuddled with me for 10 minutes this morning,” “I was on time to work,” “the kids ate all their dinner,” etc. Whatever it is that you can think of.
Another helpful tool can be gratitude jars. This can be a family activity where every person writes down one thing they are thankful for and puts it in the jar each evening. At the end of the week, you can read them all as a family. Or if that is too much, you can always just ask everyone to name one thing at the dinner table or in the car after school that they are grateful for.
Any way that you can help to train your brain to look at the positive in the world, instead of the negative, can help to better your mental health. It can be as simple as taking a few minutes each day to stop and look around, to soak up the birds singing in the sky, or the smell of food cooking on the stove. A little gratitude can go a long way.
If you are struggling with your mental health, consider seeking the help of a counselor or therapist. They can help give you the coping tools that fit your life.
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