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Health & Wellness

6 Ways to Practice an Attitude of Gratitude

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Researchers often say that gratitude is good for your health.

There’s a school at University of California, Berkeley called the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) that studies happiness and compassion, and gratitude is a frequent area of interest. A few years ago, GGSC launched a project called Thnx4.org, which asked participants every day for two weeks what they were grateful for and how long they’d felt thankful. The result? When participants felt more gratitude on a particular day, they felt more positive than negative emotions that day. Those who completed the surveys daily for the entire 14 days also demonstrated a significant uptick in gratitude and happiness, along with a higher resilience to stress; and they noted fewer physical ailments, such as headaches, less congestion, stomach pain, and cough or sore throat. While this study was for a short duration and small number of people, it demonstrates that there may be some inward positive effects of practicing (and tracking) gratitude.

Are you ready to feel healthier, happier and more thankful this year? Here are some ideas to add to your calendar that may help you feel more gratitude:

  1. Start that gratitude journal. Grab a notebook and start counting the ways you’re thankful. It may seem hard at first, but once you start training your mind to think in terms of gratitude, who knows? You may look at the world a little bit differently. Set aside some time every day and challenge yourself to write down one thing (or more) you’re grateful for. But don’t stop there. Also write down why you’re grateful for them. That way, you’re not just recording, you’re analyzing and understanding what makes you tick. Want more? Here are some other prompts to add to your gratitude journal:
    • Who in your life has made a great impact and why?
    • What is your favorite season and what do you love about it?
    • What musician or band makes you smile?
    • What family recipe do you love the most, and what’s the story behind it?
    • What are some of your favorite memories from childhood?
    • What’s the best book you’ve read lately and how did it make you feel?
    • Who in your life opens your eyes to new concepts, new cultures and new beliefs?
    • When is a time that you struggled? How did you come out of that struggle?
  2. Get out there and help others who may not be as fortunate as you. Sometimes, we all need to get out of our bubbles to appreciate the things that we have. Find an opportunity in your community where you can help others. Perhaps you can spend time visiting a senior center, or tutoring kids who are in an after-school program. Maybe there’s an animal shelter that needs volunteers. Think about ways that you can help out. Soon, you may find yourself writing about the experience in your gratitude journal.
  3. Accept compliments. It can be uncomfortable when someone says kind things to you. It’s easy to dismiss them, or shrug them off or make a joke. Instead, be grateful for the kind words, and genuinely thank the person who said them to you. You don’t have to compliment them back. Just look them in the eye and show your gratitude.
  4. Show up. When a friend of family member needs help or wants company or seems not quite like themselves, be there for them. Call, write, email, visit — whatever it takes. Let them know that you appreciate the role they play in your life by being there for them.
  5. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means living in the moment. It means appreciating every bite of your lunch. Enjoying the soft purr of your cat. Embracing the time that you have with your grandchildren. And savoring time spent doing things you love. Rather than just going through the motions of all of the above, remind yourself to be in the moment and aware of all that’s happening around you. It’s easier to be grateful when you’re savoring the experience.
  6. Tell people you appreciate them. We’re not talking about a “nice sweater,” here, although that’s a lovely thing to say, if you mean it. Rather, think about the things you relish about your friends and family. Write those items down in your gratitude journal. And then be sure and share the compliments with the people, themselves. You can say it over the phone, via email, in person or — our preference — in a thoughtful letter. Let them know why you adore them. It’ll make you feel good for spreading the love, and they’re bound to enjoy knowing that they’ve made an impact on you. They may even pay the compliment forward and start a gratitude chain.

No matter where you are in life, there are, no doubt, many reasons to be grateful. Think about those reasons, and they may help brighten your entire outlook on the world.

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