Thankfulness, as a Habit

Happy Thanksgiving, folks!

In honor of this holiday I would like to spend a little time talking about Gratitude. We all know how great it feels to experience gratitude or thankfulness; it is a big rush of dopamine and serotonin to the brain. The feeling lingers even after whatever triggered it is over. So naturally, we would want to feel gratitude more often, right?

If those warm and fuzzy feelings aren’t motivation enough, we are going to discuss some major health benefits that accompany a daily practice of gratitude. Then we will lay out a path for how to implement that practice into your daily life!
 
There are a surprising number of published research articles on the benefits of practicing gratitude. There is evidence to support physical benefits such as…

  • A stronger immune system

  • Lower blood pressure

  • More restful sleep

  • Improved biomarkers such as lowered systemic inflammation


Several other mental and emotional benefits are mentioned in the literature as well. Things like…

  • Increased alertness and concentration

  • Reports of feeling more joy and optimism

  • Decreased feelings of loneliness or isolation

  • Expressing more compassion to others


The thing about these benefits, though, is that they do not come from feeling thankful only when something really great happens to us. Instead, they come from finding thankfulness in all the wonderful little things that happen throughout the day.  Those significant health and well-being changes are part of adailygratitude practice. 
So, what does that look like in real life? Here are a few ways you can begin your daily practice…

  1. Start a gratitude journal. This is a very simple way to begin your practice that can make a huge difference in your mood and your health. Get any kind of notebook and dedicate about 15 minutes every morning or evening to writing 10 things that you are thankful for. These can be big things in life, like having supportive family and friends and they can be simple joys such as the sun coming through your window or a hot cup of coffee.

  2. Say thank you to others. This can take many forms. It could be a sticky note on the desk of a co-worker, a hand-written note to your grandma, or simply taking the time to make eye contact and say thank you to someone that helped you find what you were looking for at the grocery store. Making a goal to give thanks to 10 people every day is a great way to stretch your gratitude practice.

  3. Consider what you are taking for granted. One way to level up your gratitude practice is to take some time to think of what people, places and things in your life you would miss if they were gone. Often, we make this realization too late and it is a good way to keep things in perspective.

 
Sometimes coming up with 10 things to be thankful for every day will be difficult. We all have those crappy days where nothing seems to go right. That is when having these practices in place can really make a difference. If you know that tonight you are going to have to come up with 10 different things to write down, you will be keeping an eye out all day for blessings. And that is the point.
 
Good luck with beginning your practice and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!