Most of us associate gratitude with saying “thank you” to someone who has helped us or given us a gift. From a scientific perspective, gratitude is not just an action. Gratitude is a positive emotion, that can be an intrinsically rewarding process.
Science is now recognizing that gratitude has tangible health benefits. It helps us become a better society because grateful people are more helpful, generous, compassionate, and more forgiving and outgoing. That in turn, leads to less loneliness and isolation. Gratitude is also good for your physical and mental health. It leads to stronger immune system and has heart-healthy benefits, and even lower blood pressure. Grateful people have higher levels of positive emotions, more joy and pleasure, and happiness in their lives.
November is always a great month to think about gratitude as the holidays approach. Here are 10 EASY ways to have more gratitude in your life.
Learn to appreciate big AND little things. There's nothing too small to be thankful for. Always start with your "big rocks" (family, health, roof over your head, etc.) but take the time to appreciate all the little things too, such as change found in your pocket, the smell of coffee in the morning, the smile of a stranger.
Find gratitude in your challenges. Gratitude is not only about being thankful for positive experiences; it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced and have overcome. So far, you've survived 100% of your worst days. You're doing great.
Create a gratitude jar. It is easy to forget all the little (and big) things that happen to us daily. Every day, write down something you feel grateful for on a slip of paper and drop it in the jar. Challenge your family to do the same. At next Thanksgiving, take out those slips of paper and read them over to realize how lucky we all are.
Practice random acts of kindness. Smile at strangers. Give unexpected compliments. Pay for someone else's coffee. Gratitude starts with you but it is like the ocean, once you open the floodgates, others will follow suit.
Start a gratitude journal. Start by writing down the top 5 things you are most grateful for. Really think about it, making a conscious effort to find the things that bring you joy (or even just peace of mind). Notice that there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for in any given situation.
Show respect and gratitude to everyone, including yourself. Gratitude is a powerful tool for strengthening interpersonal relationships, promoting future relationships, mending broken relationships, and for forgiveness. This includes yourself. Don't dwell on the past. You cannot change what took place, but you can start today, and change the future.
Appreciate and take care of your physical body. We only have one "home" so we need to nurture and take care of it. Practice holistic health, eat well, exercise, sleep well, find joy, meditate, etc. Realize that your body is an amazing bio-computer and take care of it — where else are you going to live?
Appreciate Mother Nature. Show gratitude to her and all living things for she's our home. Walk among her trees and forests, drink from her streams and protect and love her animals and plants. But most of all, love her people.
Train your brain to see the good in everything. Gratitude is like going to the mental gym; strength training for your brain, if you will. The more you practice feeling grateful, the stronger that muscle gets.
Practice mindfulness and meditate. Meditation and being mindful make room in our head space by getting rid of old stress. This makes it that much easier to feel gratitude in our everyday lives. Use the last few minutes of your meditation practice for expressing gratitude.
It only takes eight weeks of gratitude practice for people to start showing changed brain patterns that lead to greater empathy and happiness.
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend." - Melody Beattie