By Amanda Ferrat, Certified Wellness Counselor and Advanced EFT Practitioner, Founder of Value Yourself Consulting
Gratitude is a word we hear often from November through the holiday season. But what does it really mean, how does it impact our health and well-being, and how do we show more gratitude?
Gratitude is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “the state of being grateful, thankfulness”. This points to gratitude being more of a passing emotion or state. Yet there are those that view gratitude as something you develop as an attitude or practice. Researcher and vulnerability expert Brene Brown says practicing gratitude is the key to cultivating joy. Her research has shown that those who are living a joyful life have achieved that joy through having a gratitude practice.
There are health benefits to practicing gratitude as well. It can help you have better sleep and last month’s article taught us why sleep is so important when it comes to our health and diabetes. There is research showing that if you focus on positive, grateful thoughts before going to bed, you will have deeper sleep and sleep longer. Start saying a few things you are grateful for before you go to bed and watch your sleep improve.
It can also improve your physical and mental health. Positive thinking and practicing gratitude have been shown through neuroscience research to reduce anxiety and depression. It also helps increase motivation to engage in physical activity and can reduce inflammation and fatigue. This can then decrease risks for heart failure and other illnesses. Gratitude also affects the part of the brain where we produce dopamine so gratitude literally will give you and your brain a dopamine hit.
Practicing gratitude can also improve your relationships and your self-esteem. In the research, they found that the parts of the brain that light up and are activated when practicing gratitude are the same parts of the brain associated with moral and social cognition, reward, empathy, and value judgment. Therefore, the emotion of gratitude supports a positive and supportive attitude toward others.
And it can also help you develop greater self-care practices. By adopting a more positive and grateful attitude, you will begin to show yourself more care and prioritize doing things that continue to improve your health and well-being. These are all great reasons to develop a gratitude practice.
How does one develop a gratitude practice? Create a practice of journaling about what you are grateful for each day. This may be easiest to do either in the morning before your day gets busy or at night before you go to bed. Or if you are ambitious, you can do both! Another fun idea is to write down 1-3 things each day that you are grateful for on slips of paper and then put them into a jar. At the end of the year, or when you are needing some joy, you can pull the slips out and read them, reminding yourself of all the things you are grateful for. Tell people what you appreciate about them when you have the chance. You could write a letter to a friend, send them a voice memo or text, or compliment a stranger on what they are wearing. Make it a point to tell at least one person each day something about them you like, appreciate or enjoy. Share the gratitude and watch them light up and also get your own dopamine hit. And most importantly, get in the habit of telling yourself what you are grateful for and appreciate about yourself. This one can be more difficult, especially if you are struggling with your health. You may feel like you do not have much to be grateful for. Yet I encourage you to try, you can start small. You can do this while looking in the mirror, acknowledge something you like about yourself. Or when you’ve accomplished a task, celebrate yourself. The more positive thinking and gratitude you can show yourself and others, the better. The very best part about practicing gratitude is that it is FREE, yet its impact is priceless!
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