Don't let gratitude become a once a year occurrence!
One common Thanksgiving tradition that many families either love or bemoan each year is going around the dinner table to give thanks. Whether you are thankful for family, friends, good food, or something else entirely, this custom presents an opportune moment to reflect on all the important and joyful events that have occurred over the past year. But did you know that practicing gratitude regularly can do wonders for both your physical and emotional health?
Several studies have demonstrated that those who cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” were more likely to report fewer aches and pains, to engage in healthy activities and exercise, and to experience better overall sleep quality. The research of Richard A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leader in the field of psychology, has also definitively shown that gratitude increases one’s happiness and reduces feelings of depression. Furthermore, a study conducted before and after the September 11th attacks revealed the power of grateful thinking in building emotional resilience and warding against depression in the face of a major crisis.
So what can you do to be more grateful and reap the physical and mental benefits? We’ve got some suggestions for you.
One of the most frequently recommended ways to practice gratitude is to start a gratitude journal. Whether you write down the top five things you were grateful for during the day or you compose “thank you” letters to people in your life, there is no wrong way to structure your journal. The only thing that matters is that you delve deep. Don’t just go through the motions and write the same five things every day. Think back and find the little moments or random people in your day that made you feel happy or special.
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware or present. During mindfulness meditation, you focus on the present moment, acknowledging the environment around you and your own thoughts without judgment or emotion. A 2013 paper authored by the clinical psychologist, Dr. Debra Rosenzweig, calls mindfulness one of the sisters of gratitude. Acknowledge the moments you are thankful for throughout your day as they happen.
If being outdoors is your thing, go for a walk! Notice the changing colors of the tree leaves and the feel of the crisp autumn air on your face. Sit in the park to listen to dogs bark and children play. Treat yourself to some warm hot chocolate or a pumpkin-spiced latte. Note the things you appreciate and let any negative thoughts pass you by.
While the prospect of standing in front a mirror every morning and saying things like “You’re awesome!” can seem a little awkward at first, many people swear by self-affirmations as an easy way to boost your self-confidence and remind yourself of your great qualities. Another way to accomplish this is to write happy or grateful thoughts on Post-Its and hang them around your room or work space. Better yet, leave notes for your family and friends telling them why you are thankful to have them in your life!
If you’re new to meditation, there are plenty of YouTube videos that will help guide you through the process. Try out this video, narrated by Deepak Chopra, which focuses on feelings of gratitude and forgiveness.
There are countless other ways to give thanks throughout the year. What are some methods you use practice gratitude? Let us know the comments!
Gratitude Meditation: A Simple But Powerful Happiness Intervention
The Science Behind Gratitude (And How It Can Change Your Life)
Harvard Mental Health Letter: In Praise of Gratitude