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Why Should You Practice Gratitude?
If you’re having trouble finding something to be grateful for this year, you’re not alone. Suffice it to say 2020 has been anything but kind to many of us. We’ve spent months distancing from those we love, giving up our favorite events, working out at home, and living in our pajamas (okay, that last one actually isn’t so bad).
While it might feel difficult to look on the bright side this Thanksgiving, science tells us that practicing gratitude is incredibly important. If you need a little inspiration to count your blessings, read on.
What Is Gratitude?
Gratitude is simply the state of being thankful. We can be grateful for something small, like a gift, or for something more significant, like our lives or our loved ones. But more than that, gratitude is a deep appreciation for all the good we have in our lives. And practicing gratitude means regularly identifying what we’re thankful for and then actively seeking out the positives all around us.
Psychologists also say that gratitude helps us to live happier, healthier lives.
The Benefits of Gratitude
Scientists have studied gratitude for years. Not surprisingly, these studies find that people who practice gratitude often have healthier relationships, report feeling happier overall, and even experience physical benefits.
We already know that exercise has both mental and emotional benefits. But it turns out that practicing gratitude – and focusing on the positive – literally changes your brain. One study performed brain scans on people before and after they started practicing gratitude regularly. The scans showed changes in the prefrontal cortex, which aids in decision making and learning. Simply put, when we intentionally focus on being thankful, our brains learn to seek out and recognize the good things.
Practicing gratitude can also help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Combined with a regular workout program and healthy nutrition, gratitude can incredibly improve psychological health. Plus, gratitude also roots out toxic emotions like greed, envy, and aggression.
Gratitude improves mental and emotional health in the following ways:
- Improves friendships and relationships.
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Reduces toxic emotions like envy, greed, aggression, and more.
- Increases empathy for others.
- Improves self-esteem.
- Can help reduce post-traumatic stress and trauma responses and help increase resiliency in trauma survivors.
Gratitude has a myriad of psychological benefits, but being thankful is good for our bodies, too. Research proves that those who regularly practice gratitude experience many physical advantages, such as:
- Better immune system responses
- Less physical stress
- Lower risk of heart disease and associated heart problems
- Healthy aging
- Less inflammation
- Improved sleep (sleeping better and longer)
Being thankful isn’t just about feeling better emotionally and mentally. It’s also about living a healthier life physically. Plus, those who practice gratitude are more likely to work out and seek regular health checkups, both of which contribute to longer, healthier lives.
Ways to Practice and Cultivate Gratitude
Thanksgiving is an ideal time to focus on the good. However, practicing gratitude is something you can do all year. If you’re not sure where to start, try these methods:
Note a few things you’re thankful for each day. They can be big, like a promotion, life-changing news from family or friends, or a new relationship. Or, it can be something small, like your ability to lift weights, a word of encouragement from a friend, or the way your cup of coffee feels in your hand on a cold winter morning. Jot down a few thoughts in a physical journal, note them on your phone, or tell a friend or family member about them.
Like a gratitude journal, a gratitude jar requires us to write down what we’re thankful for and then place those notes in a jar. Over the months, you can visualize just how many wonderful things you have in your life, which helps you focus more intently on the good.
Mindfulness and meditation have incredible benefits. And if you’re not into the world of “woo,” don’t worry: mindfulness can be as simple as taking a walk and intentionally focusing on thankfulness. Notice the leaves on the trees, the laugh of a child playing in the snow, or the way the sun feels on your face. Putting ourselves in the current moment – and ignoring other distractions – really helps us focus on gratitude.
Focus on Others
Gratitude isn’t just about ourselves. We can cultivate thankfulness in others, too. Write a thank-you note to a friend or co-worker. Volunteer at a local nonprofit. Send words of encouragement to a friend who’s struggling. Focusing on others not only helps us feel happier, but it also spreads gratitude to the world around us.
Want more ways to practice gratitude this holiday season and all year long? Check out these ideas.
As always, we here at WOD Bottom are grateful for you- our customers, family, and friends. Our lives are better thanks to your love and support.