Gratitude is Good for Your Mental and Physical Health

We have an entire day set aside that is all about having gratitude: Thanksgiving. But what if we focus on gratitude each day and feel better?

As the adage goes: there is always something to be thankful for, and this year, perhaps more than others may hold even greater importance for having an “attitude of gratitude.”

Gratitude is being thankful and appreciative for what your receive, whether it is tangible or intangible. It is a positive emotion that helps build our self-worth and affirmation of goodness that we all experience.

It has been beyond challenging for many recently, but one day we will look back and say this time has afforded us the opportunity to appreciate our health, our family, and our friends. Maybe this has helped us all put things into perspective by focusing more on taking care of the needs of our neighbors, serving others, and counting our blessings.

Attitude can affect our health, our relationships, and the very essence of our being. A positive attitude is always seeing the possibility in every situation as a potential gift. Think about it. Aren’t positive people pleasant to be around? They can make us feel grounded and safe.

Many studies have shown that being kind to others and showing gratitude to those around us can have a positive impact on our mind and body. Feeling more relaxed, having improved self-esteem, being more optimistic and less anxious towards others are just some of the emotional benefits. Living a life of gratitude can also improve your sleep quality, increase your energy, reduce illness and physical pain, and decrease blood pressure. When we feel good and have good health – mind and body – we also strengthen our relationships with others.

Two university psychologists performed a 10-week study, asking participants to craft a few sentences a week on specific things, including gratitude. One group was asked to write about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and a third wrote about events that had affected them with no emphasis on positivity or negativity. When the 10-week study was up the doctors found that those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation

Our attitude sets the stage for how each day plays out.

Practicing gratitude is one way to help yourself or your loved one deal with troubles. It is understandable that we all can get wrapped up in the less positive aspects of life. They may be dealing with the loss of loved ones, diminishing health, feelings of isolation, mobility issues, or slow, long days after a lifetime of having a career. All these can take a toll on one’s mental well-being.

It’s easy to say one should strive for happiness as if it is magic, but it’s not always easy. However, there are several things we can do to help foster a better outlook, not just for our older loved ones, but for ourselves as well.

Keep a Journal

Every day, look for three things – even the smallest – for which you are thankful. It can be simple. That morning cup of coffee, a phone call from an old friend, or a sunny day. Make it a point to look for pleasant surprises. Seek out things around you that you haven’t noticed in the past. Perhaps a new bird is visiting your bird feeder. There are many gratitude journals available for purchase to guide you if you aren’t sure how to get started. No matter how or when you journal, read back through your writings often, especially when you get the down in the dumps feeling starting.

Count Your Blessings

What do you consider blessings in your life? This can be anything that you treasure, something you are thankful for or anything someone did for you.

Personal Visits

Taking the time to visit someone and let them know that they are important to you is an excellent way to show gratitude. If an in-person visit isn’t possible, connect via FaceTime, or simply call them on the phone. The simple act of reaching out to others will provide a boost to both parties.

Meditate

Find a quiet, relaxing area, close your eyes and take ten deep breaths. Take a breath and focus on things for which you are grateful. When you exhale, say “thank you.” This will help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.

Say Thank You

Express your gratitude to people in your life. One great way to do this is with a card or handwritten letter yes, a LETTER!

Once you get into the habit of practicing your attitude of gratitude, the benefits can be enormous.

 

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