Practicing gratitude is a simple way to drastically improve your health. To start, it greatly improves your psychological health. Gratitude can help us release an array of toxic, draining emotions from anger and regret to self-loathing and hatred.
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading researcher on gratitude who has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being, confirms through his research that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
Not only will focusing on what you are grateful for enrich your life and make you more emotionally grounded, but it will also improve your physical health. In a study published in Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people reported experiencing fewer aches and pains and also reported feeling generally healthier than other people.
So, how do we actually cultivate gratitude into our everyday lives? We have compiled a list of six simple and easy tips to start introducing little seeds of gratitude all throughout your day-to-day lives.
1. Keep a gratitude journal
Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to tangibly bring thanks into your everyday life. Ideas include A) free-form journaling on a moment or person for which you are grateful and B) listing five things that you are thankful for every day. A consistent display of gratitude can raise the floor of your happiness and inject good feelings into what could otherwise be perceived as a bad day.
2. Challenge yourself to a “no complaining” day, week, or month
The inverse of expressing gratitude is complaining. So, in order to welcome more gratitude into your life, make it a challenge to avoid complaining for a set amount of time. Often, what we say gets reinforced in our brains, meaning that the less you complain, the more likely you are to look at an unfortunate situation in a more positive light. Maybe you will even find gratitude within the object of your frustration!
3. Write thank-you notes
Let others know you are grateful for them by writing little notes and reminders of your gratitude. This does not have to be a big or fancy gesture, but rather small pockets of thanks to spread to other people’s days. This can be leaving a sticky note on a coworker’s desk to thank them for their help on a project or leaving a note for the postman by your mailbox to thank him for his service to the neighborhood.
4. Try to live in the moment
One easy way to slip into worrying or complaining is to constantly bring yourself back to the past or into the future. If you live in the present, you are more readily available to take in everything our senses are telling us about the now, and gratitude will flow more easily from there.
For example, if you sit down to a beautiful, home-cooked meal and are completely immersed in the experience of eating it, it can be much more satisfying and invigorating than if you were being distracted by your phone or rogue thoughts about random past events.
5. Make time for your favorite activities and people
If you are drowning in work and are not giving yourself enough time to enjoy the smaller things that bring you joy, it can be easy to lose track of all you are grateful for.
Make it a priority to spend time on your favorite hobbies and spend evenings with your favorite people. The more you immerse yourself in settings you find joy in, the easier it will be to find gratitude.
6. Spend time outdoors
When we are stuck in our own bubble, it can quickly feel like our problems are the end of the world. Placing ourselves in environments much larger than ourselves and almost entirely out of our control can be a humbling and grounding experience.
Take a walk through your local park, or go for a hike with a loved one. Try and be in the present and take note of where you find gratitude. Maybe it’s in the day or in the sun, maybe it’s the grass or simply the opportunity to be among such a complex and beautiful ecosystem.
Practicing gratitude can be a simple and time-efficient way to brighten the rest of your day. Everyone has responsibilities to manage and problems to work through, but allowing yourself the time and energy to appreciate what you might take for granted can certainly lift your spirits and maybe even boost your productivity.
Ahead of this year’s Thanksgiving season, we at Prairie Health are happy to offer you these six tips on incorporating gratitude into your life. Gratitude doesn’t have to be a seasonal thing!
Interested in more mental health tips? Here are some of our other blog posts