Science has shown that practicing gratitude can improve our overall health and well-being. When we make a habit of focusing on and appreciating the positive things in our lives, we are actually making a choice to feel happier and live better.
Taking a few moments in our day to acknowledge and feel grateful for the good things in our life can lead to better sleep, lower stress levels, healthier eating habits and positive social relationships, to name a few benefits. A recent study among university students in China showed that being grateful not only reduces levels of depression, but also enhances a state of peace of mind and reduces ruminative thinking, which is a common struggle in depression. Another study involving a group of patients with high blood pressure found decreases in blood pressure with gratitude-based interventions.
As you can see, there are many benefits to practicing gratitude. But, how do you go about doing so? Here are some tips:
Take five to feel grateful: Spend five minutes of your day to reflect on what you are grateful for on that day or about your life. You can do so anywhere – on your daily commute to work, while taking a shower, or while in the waiting room to see your doctor. Reflect on the small things, the big things and the things in between – think about how good your coffee just tasted, or how your partner smiled at you this morning, or how you have clean water to bathe in daily. The point is, carve out five minutes of your daily busy schedule to reflect on things that spark joy for you.
Keep a gratitude journal: Write about anything and everything that ignites your gratitude. Write in any way, shape or form that you find fitting. You can do this for a few minutes before bedtime or whenever you have a moment throughout the day.
Write a gratitude letter: Is there someone particular in your life that you have not yet thanked for doing something for you? It might sound cheesy in today’s era of quick texts and near-absent face time, but consider writing a gratitude letter – whether it’s for your colleague who helped out in your time of need or for your mom who you know you love but may not have the opportunity to be expressive with frequently. Doing this exercise not only helps us connect with our own feelings of gratitude but also encourages us to connect with someone who matters to us in a way we might not otherwise.
Whether you decide to practice gratitude in one of the ways above, or find your own approach or technique that helps to focus on the positive aspects of your life, feeling grateful can help you to connect with positive emotions like joy and awe and bring you closer to people you care for. In this way, we can make thankfulness an integral part of our day to day lives, rather than just an annual cause for celebration!