Gratitude is connected with better physical, mental, and emotional health. So why just limit it to one day a year in November? You can use gratitude every day to start feeling better right away.
In a recent psychological study, a group of people was asked to write down things they were grateful for that week. The comparison group wrote down things that had annoyed them that week. And the control group wrote about things that were neither positive nor negative.
Ten weeks later the gratitude group reported feeling more positive and optimistic about their lives. They exercised more and reported fewer visits to the doctor than the other two groups.
In another extensive study on gratitude, giving thanks was correlated with better self-reported physical health, psychological health, and engagement in healthy activities.
These are just two studies among a breadth of impressive research on the benefits of being grateful. And the main takeaways are this:
First, giving and receiving gratitude makes us happy. Our brain releases dopamine and serotonin which are the pleasure hormones.
Second, when we experience this happiness from gratitude, it makes us do other things that are good for our health.
Most importantly, there is literally no downside to this practice. Maybe practicing gratitude won't have as dramatic of an effect as you want, but it can only help, not hurt your chances at feeling happier and being healthier.
Ways to Practice Gratitude
Now that you know how powerful gratitude can be, here are a few ways you can add it into your life with very little effort.
1. Gratitude Journal
Keep a journal of things that you are grateful for. You can write about people, places, things, feelings, experiences - anything you want! And you can repeat things each day or week too. There are no rules or restrictions to this practice. Adding this as a weekly or daily practice can help alleviate stress and anxiety in your life.
2. Thank-You Note
When is the last time you wrote someone a thank you note? Even if you're out of practice, give it a try. And if you don't have the time to hand-write a note, try an email, or even a text message. Write to someone that you are grateful for and thank them for whatever they have done to make your life better.
3. Say Thank You And Mean It
Each day you encounter people and say thank you without thinking about it - the clerk at the grocery store, the UPS driver, or even your partner at home. But sometimes you're just saying thank you out of politeness, not out of appreciation. So next time, try adding a bit more feeling to your thank you, and be specific. Instead of just "thank you", try "thanks for helping me today, I appreciate it. Have a great day."
Gratitude meditation is the practice of reflecting on the things you are grateful for. It only takes a few minutes, and it can make a big difference. Start with just 2 minutes of gratitude meditation each morning and notice how it sets a positive tone for the rest of your day. If you need help getting started you can search online for guided gratitude meditations to help you.
Let Thanksgiving Kick Off a Year of Gratitude
There is no better time to start practicing gratitude than Thanksgiving. And you can continue to experience the health benefits of gratitude by making it a part of your regular routine. It takes very little time, no tools, and there is no downside!