Practicing gratitude is more than just a habit we can have during the holiday season. Did you know it is something you can do daily, and it is good for your overall well-being? According to research by the American Heart Association, our brain focuses on negative information, more than the positive, as a way to remember the pain and avoid it. Experts call this “negative bias.” This negative bias can lead to depression and poor physical and mental health. However, the practice of gratitude can have positive and lasting effects, such as lower blood pressure, improved immune systems, better eating behaviors, and they are less likely to abuse substances.
How do I practice gratitude?
It is easy for us to pause and think about what we are grateful for now, but it might be more difficult when we are not feeling well, busy, stressed, or tired. Here are five simple ways to practice gratitude from the HEART.
- Health: What did your body do for you today? We often take for granted how much are body does. Did you know you take about eight million breaths a year? Your feet can take you up a mountain, your arms can hug someone you love. Take a minute to be thankful for your body. Also, start your stay with a deep breath, clear your mind, and focus on the present, which tells our mind we are stopping for a moment.
- Eat: What did you feed your body to nourish yourself today? Did you know if you eat three meals a day, you’ll eat about a thousand meals this year? Savor your meals, slow down and be present in the moment when eating. This practice is a way to re-frame any unhelpful or negative thought patterns.
- Activity: What did you do that really enjoyed today? Each day for a week, write three good things about your day. Did you take time for yourself? Did you volunteer and help someone else? At the end of the week, review your list and reflect on all you have to be grateful for.
- Relationship: Who do you value most in your life? Spending time with our loved one’s helps to strengthen relationships, which is the strongest predictor of happiness and coping with stress. Surrounding ourselves with those we value can make us more positive and influence us to be happier. Don’t be shy to tell them how much you appreciate them.
- Time: What are you doing right now? Every single day you wake up with 24 brand new hours, and the past is history. Each morning, set a positive tone for the day by acknowledging all you have to be grateful for. Take a minute to be thankful for the gift of time.
What are the benefits of practicing gratitude?
Our mind is a powerful tool and practicing gratitude daily ensures it comes more easily. Research says it only takes eight weeks of practicing gratitude daily for individuals to show changed brain patterns that lead to significant benefits.
- Improves mental health. Practicing gratitude can help us reduce numerous toxic emotions, such as envy, frustration, regret, and resentment. Research shows that gratitude reduces depression and is a major contributor to resilience after traumatic events.
- Enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Individuals who regularly practice gratitude are less aggressive and are more sensitive and empathetic to others.
- Better sleep. According to research, keeping a gratitude journal can improve sleep. Spending just 15 minutes before bed writing grateful sentiments can help you sleep better and longer.
- Improved self–esteem. Gratitude practice has been proven to reduce social comparison and increase self-esteem. Grateful individuals often appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
As we approach the holiday season, think about cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Show thankful appreciation for what you receive–with your body, food, activities, relationships, and time. You can recognize the source of goodness in everything around you and improve your mind, body, and soul.