Gratitude refers to the quality or feeling of thankfulness and appreciation. Being thankful can transform your life. A quote from Willie Nelson expresses this well, “When I started counting my blessings my whole life turned around.” Many studies have shown that gratitude improves physical and psychological health, reduces stress, strengthens the immune system and improves sleep quality. Practicing gratitude thoughts increases feelings of joy, happiness, forgiveness and compassion.
There are many ways to foster gratitude in our lives. The simple act of saying “Thank you” is very powerful. When you thank someone make sure that you experience the sense of appreciation as you speak the words. Another powerful practice and a great way to start your day is to focus on gratitude thoughts. Think of three things that you are grateful for and ponder each thought for 30 seconds. Feel the appreciation and joy of those things. You can be grateful for things you currently have or by thinking of happy memories from your past. Even being grateful for small or simple things such as a beautiful sunrise counts. We can reap the benefits of gratitude through prayer, meditation and speaking positive, thoughtful words.
The Institute for Functional Medicine offers some tips for practicing and exploring gratitude using a gratitude journal:
- Spend at least 15 minutes writing about the things for which you are grateful. You may find it easier to write at night so you can include events or observations from the day.
- Set an alarm on your watch, calendar, or smart phone to help remind you to write in your journal once or twice per week. Try to integrate journaling into your routine, but also write down joyful experiences as they happen so that you don’t forget them.
- Begin your journey by writing about the basic material things about which you are grateful—such as having a home, a warm bed, food, etc. Then, try to shift the focus to the people, places, experiences, and situations that bring you joy and happiness.
- Avoid repeating the same entries. This will make journaling a challenge as time passes, but challenging yourself in this way will allow your awareness and sense of gratitude to flourish.
- Instead of tallying up all of the good people and things in your life, reflect deeply on how these people and things bring you joy, and what your life would be like without them.
- Try to find something to appreciate in the people and things you don’t like. Focusing only on the goodness will help shift your perceptions and bring you more happiness.
- Don’t forget to be grateful for yourself and your abilities. Appreciate all that your body and mind can do— whether it’s walking, talking, reading, dancing, swimming, or scaling a mountain.
- Get creative! Gratitude journals don’t have to be full of lists and words. Fill yours up with keepsakes of your favorite moments—concert ticket stubs, restaurant menus, photos, etc.—or other things like drawings and collages that allow you to express your joy.
“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” —Hausa Proverb
-Diane Duvall, CLC, CHHC, CPT
Diane Duvall is a Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine. Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine to prevent chronic disease and promote health and wellness.
Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462. Phone: (561) 432-8935 Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook