Well, Thanksgiving is upon us! And with all the challenges that 2020 may have brought to you and your family, being thankful may be the very last thing you are feeling. But I hope you are able to get yourself in a grateful space because good things come to you when you cultivate the regular practice of gratitude. This article captures five ways that a strong sense of gratitude will help change your brain and improve your health.
First, gratitude strengthens relationships. If you show appreciation to others, you tend to accumulate friendships, strengthen those you have, and get returned appreciation from others. So do you regularly give a sincere compliment to at least one person each day? Try it! Do you hold open a door for someone walking in behind you? Try it! These are small things that will get reflected back to you in ways you may never know.
A sense of gratefulness helps your physical health. According to a 2012 article titled “Personality and Individual Differences”, grateful people report fewer physical aches and pains, less need for medication and overall contentment in their lives.
Gratitude is also shown to improve your mental health. Practicing gratitude can lessen the load of toxic feelings and emotions you may feel. You can rid yourself of resentments, jealousy, regrets and petty thoughts by practicing a sense of thankfulness for all that you have in your life. Seeking out the good in your life is the key to this benefit.
Also, being thankful helps you sleep better! And who can’t use better sleep? According to a study published in “Applied Psychology: Health and Well Being”, writing sentiments of gratitude in a journal before sleep helps reduce your stress and allows you to sleep better and longer. Rather than watching news media or talking poorly about your day, try settling down with a journal to write about the highlights of your day. What went right for you? Did something make you smile? Was there a special event that you can be grateful for? These thoughts will calm your brain, ease your heart, and help you sleep better.
Finally, gratitude may help improve your self esteem. A regular practice of seeking out all areas of your life to be grateful for can help reduce your social comparison and thereby lower your level of jealousy and resentment. Rather than being resentful of others with more money, better status or seemingly happier relationships, find the good in yours! When you are focused on all the ways your life is good — and believe me, there IS GOOD in every life — you will be less likely to compare yourself with others. And you will have formed a stronger sense of self-esteem with your life. And here’s a clue: If you don’t see the good in your life, you’re not looking hard enough!
When you find the positive elements in your life, you are on your way to a strong and healthy sense of gratitude. Can you appreciate where you are from, how you were raised (no matter the circumstances), what you do, where you live and how you spend your time, etc.? These are many things that can trip us up and have us fall into resentment or entitlement. So I encourage you to be very deliberate in finding the good in all areas of your life. Certainly there will be things that are challenging and things you may not like and wish to change. But put your focus on all that you have, and all the opportunities ahead for making new, healthy choices.
It takes time to form a strong sense of gratitude. Don’t expect to think about it for a few days and change your life. It’s a perpetual practice. But soon after you make it a regular practice, it will feel more automatic and less like work.
I hope you enjoy this brief video of the late, Dr. Wayne Dyer speaking about the topic of gratitude. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvMJ_vGURJg
Wishing you wellness! And Happy Thanksgiving to you!