The Thanksgiving holiday is fast approaching and thoughts are turning to how many will gather, what to include in the menu and counting our blessings. I would like to suggest, however, that you not wait for a holiday to practice gratitude, but begin to cultivate it as a daily practice.
Cultivating gratitude doesn’t cost any money and it doesn’t take much time, but the benefits are enormous!
- Improved Self Esteem – Having an attitude of gratitude reduces social comparison and opens the door for you to both appreciate other people’s accomplishments and receive support from those around you. Gratitude has been demonstrated to increase athlete’s self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance.
- Improved Physical Health – According to a study published in 2012, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, and report feeling healthier than other people. Thankfulness has been linked to better immune function, better ability to relax and decreased rates of disease.
- Improved Sleep – According to a 2011 study published in Applied Physchology: Health and Well-Being, spending just 15 minutes recording grateful thoughts before going to bed will reduce stress and improve your sleep.
- Increases Mental Strength – Research has repeatedly shown that gratitude reduces stress and plays a major role in overcoming trauma. Do you know a military veteran who is struggling after deployment? Or someone who has experienced tragedy? Helping them recognize all they have to be thankful for – even during the worst times – will foster resilience.
- Opens the Door to Relationships – A 2014 study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. Mom was teaching you good manners; but thanking a stranger for holding the door, or a server for her service, or sending a thank you note to someone who helped you will nourish them emotionally and lead to new opportunities for you.
Do you find yourself wishing for different circumstances? Rather than taking the position of being thankful when your wish is fulfilled, turn the process around. As Shawn Anchor shares in his TED Talk, gratitude and happiness are the first step, not the end result. Making the choice to be happy and practice gratitude is both healthy and can improve your performance.
How do you get started in cultivating gratitude? Three approaches come to mind …
Reframe situations as positive – when you find yourself bogged down in complaint about a situation, see if you can mentally “flip the switch” to reframe things in a positive perspective. Shift your perception by noting an aspect of the situation for which you are grateful.
Start a daily gratitude journal – make a list of a few people or events for which you are grateful each day. Whether you start your day or bring it to a close this way (or both), make a note of big and little things that bless you.
Write a gratitude letter – take your journal one step further and write a note to a friend or family member thanking them for their influence on your life and detailing the reasons you are grateful for them.
I am certainly grateful for the opportunity to support you and many others in the pursuit of wellness. Thank you for valuing your health and allowing me to serve you through this blog!