Fostering Health And Happiness With An Attitude Of Gratitude Every Day
Posted by Donna Mae Scheib on September 02, 2019
Fostering Health And Happiness With An Attitude Of Gratitude Every Day
Psychologists along with other health professionals have routinely reported that the practice of sharing what we are grateful for (i.e., practicing an attitude of gratitude) leads to increased overall health and happiness. In fact, they say that consciously living with an attitude of gratitude can be really life-changing. Life-changing!
Specifically, scientific studies have shown that by cultivating an attitude of gratitude not only makes you feel better about your life in general, but every single major organ system of your body is positively affected as well.
Let’s look in more detail at several of these overall benefits of gratitude and also at some simple, practical ways to build a sense of gratitude so you, too, can experience better health and increased happiness in your life today and in the future.
What are some of the benefits of gratitude?
Gratitude has been known to…
- Impact several systems in your body resulting in distinct, positive measurable effects that are more normalized, improved, or heightened: blood pressure levels; blood sugar levels; cardiac and EEG rhythms; inflammatory cytokines; reproductive hormones; the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine involved in mood regulation; the social bonding hormone oxytocin; and the stress hormone cortisol.
- Improve your heart health including reducing the chance of sudden death for those individuals with either coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure
- Improve your sleep patterns to have a deeper, longer-lasting night sleep and thus, to feel better rested throughout the next day
- Increase the likelihood of engaging in more healthy activities (e.g., assorted types of exercise, sports, recreation, hobbies, and leisure)
- Increase your relationship satisfaction with friends, family members, relatives, neighbors, and others who you may encounter on any given day
- Raise the standard of your performance in any work situation or while engaging in a volunteer experience
- Reduce your general level of stress to be calmer and more at peace throughout the day
What are some simple, practical ways to build a sense of gratitude?
There are many ways to build a sense of gratitude to include…
- Try to be happy and content with what you have and avoid unnecessary comparisons to other people who you perceive to have more advantages than you whether this is materialistically, emotionally, socially, etc.
- Create a daily gratitude ritual (in the mornings, afternoons, or evenings – whatever works best for you – but preferably at the same time each day) and pause to think about at least two or three different things that you are grateful for today; consider making a gratitude jar and jotting these items down on slips of paper and then placing them into the jar to be read at different times during any given day, week, or month.
- Focus on other people and what you can do for them instead of being primarily consumed only about yourself and your own situation. Think about how you can give your time or talents in some way to help a particular person in need. Pause to allow yourself the opportunity to creatively think and you may well be surprised about the ideas you come up with!
- Keep a daily gratitude journal and write a poem, create a story, or generate a list that describes what you are grateful for; revisit the previous entries from time to time to reflect on your examples of gratitude in your life. If you like to draw, add artwork to your writing.
- Practice mindfulness whether through meditation, prayer, or any other preferred spiritual action. Pay close attention to the present moment through your conscious thoughts and attentive focus. Don’t be so caught up with the past or the future as you know that the past cannot be changed and the future can only be predicted. Don’t waste your precious time either. Many individuals who practice mindfulness tend to focus on something that makes them happy like a special memory, a photograph of a loved one, a cool breeze, the sunshine, a beloved object like a delicate seashell, or even a favorite smell. And then, they let their mind think about what it is they are grateful for and how they might express this feeling in their life today. They don’t let other thoughts enter their mind but only try to keep their focus on being grateful.
- Readily perform nonverbal actions like smiling, hugging, and using eye contact and any number of facial expressions to genuinely express your thoughts and feelings whether it is to support, offer empathy, show excitement, or to encourage someone. Before you know it, the regularity of demonstrating these nonverbal actions will become a habit and it will be very natural for you to express yourself this way.
- Speak kindly, gently, and sincerely, choosing your words carefully and adding “please” and “thank you” repeatedly to your daily vocabulary to show genuine appreciation; include positive phrases toward others in an expression of admiration and affinity. You will soon see how your words can impact others in a positive way and how your gratitude can most likely influence others to also lead similar lives of gratitude.
- Spend your time and money more so on valuable experiences and enriching activities opposed to merely shopping for and accumulating more and more things. Scientific studies show that those people who do so (e.g., prioritize experiences and activities over materialistic possessions), not only feel more of a sense of gratitude, but they are even more motivated to pay it forward and practice authentic generosity as well. Generosity, in turn, is linked to happiness and so, this cycle reinforces more gratitude and then the gratitude reinforces your thoughts and actions to be more generous, and so on and so on. You will discover for yourself what scientific researchers have documented for some time: that there is a strong link between generosity and happiness.
- Write a thank-you note or a thank you letter, send a text message or email, or call or Skype an individual in response to a kind act bestowed upon you or a gift that was given to you. Make it a practice to always express your thankfulness via any preferred form of written or verbal communication and as timely as possible.
Both happiness and overall health are strongly influenced by your daily, ongoing thoughts and the choices you make in life. You can choose to embrace life and the opportunity to appreciate and to express gratitude as you spend your days or you can choose to ignore these opportunities to do so and undoubtedly not be as potentially healthy or happy as you could be. However, for those individuals who do make an attitude of gratitude a conscious positive habit, they will most likely feel happier in their lives, cultivate stronger relationships with others, and also be able to boost or maintain their overall health for a longer period of time.
So, what are you waiting for? Come join in the attitude of gratitude every day and experience the difference this makes!
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